Across the River with Geoff Goodfellow | July 19

Love the tax time window display created by local property stylist Tam Read for the Hindmarsh + Walsh office in Moss Vale.

Her ever-changing creative installations in that window always make my day brighter as I wander past to buy our morning newspaper.

TAX TIME: This display in a Moss Vale office is a poignant reminder that July is when we all have so much fun completing our annual taxation return. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

TAX TIME: This display in a Moss Vale office is a poignant reminder that July is when we all have so much fun completing our annual taxation return. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

Tam's playful installation reminded me of some old wisdom which says the art of taxation is to pluck the goose in such a manner as to extract the maximum number of feathers with the minimum amount of squawking. 

Someone else suggested that if you want to teach kids about how taxation works, just eat 30 percent of their ice-cream.

Up at Dublin Castle we once popped into a museum on taxation. 

It was quite good and a couple of quotations in the display stand out, with Nancy Carmody saying, “I am thankful for the taxes I pay, because it means I am employed,” while Robert Heinlein takes a slightly different view, when he proclaimed, “Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors – and miss.”

While travelling in Russia I learned about Tsar Peter the Great who brought in a beard tax to collect funds for capital works projects (and fighting wars) from blokes who had let their whiskers grow.

He also encouraged smoking, but then taxed tobacco, and introduced a stone tax on all arrivals to the new St Petersburg, making them provide rocks for his building projects before they entered the city.  

Yes indeed, there have been plenty of examples of creative taxes dreamed up by leaders over the ages.  

There was the window tax in England, a hearth tax and even a cowardice tax for blokes who refused to go to war. Nero introduced a urine tax on chamber pots, the Poms had a hat, wig and powder tax for the upper classes, but perhaps the best of all is the flatulence tax imposed on farmers by the New Zealand government in 2003 to help the cows and sheep comply with emission levels set as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Economics textbooks tell you that among other things, a good tax should be fair, equitable, cheap to administer, simply understood by everyone and in some cases be imposed to act as a deterrent for things that aren’t in the best interests of the wider community. That’s why some countries heavily tax emissions, alcohol, tobacco, fuel guzzling cars and gambling.  

So why don't we tax other public nuisances? Surely nobody would squawk too much if people who use leaf blowers were taxed $500 a year for owning a public nuisance. There are plenty of other things we could add to the list – noisy trail bikes, junk mail, unsolicited tele-marketers and loud people who talk on mobile phones in public places.

Another opportunity would be a cat gonad tax, which could be imposed on every intact cat in the shire. At $100 per testicle, or $200 for a functioning set of ovaries, the local council would quickly pick up enough gonad tax to fund a new footpath or two, while at the same time removing a few future nuisances.

Then there would be an irresponsible-dog-owner-tax imposed on people who don’t look after their dogs or own pooing dogs, dangerous dogs, barking dogs or some of those obnoxious breeds that look like yapping rats.  

The list of public nuisances goes on and surely nobody would squawk if the offenders were taxed. Yep! I reckon a nuisance tax would be a win-win for Wingecarribee.

Meanwhile at the Bullio rectory, Father Faulkner answers the telephone.

"Hello, is this Father Faulkner?"  

"It is."

"This is the Taxation Department. Can you help us?"  

"I can."

"Do you know a bloke called Dudley?"  

"I do."

"Is he a member of your congregation?"  

"He is."

"Did he donate $10,000 to the church?"  

"He will."

 – Geoff Goodfellow


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