Just what the hell is wrong with the UK tax system? Maybe Ernst & Young has the answer

From: Nick Beelzebub, CEO, Avernus plc

To: all UK team leaders

Date: 09:30:01:01:00

Congratulations on the success of the UK Y2K readiness initiative. I took a swift look round the country last night and never have I seen so many disgruntled people being forced to work through public holidays. Not to mention the hangovers, indigestion, overdrafts and general chaos. I never believed we could really convince British humans that their world was about to end unless a penalty shoot out was involved. But this was a great team effort. The Chairman has indicated his pleasure.

Could I remind all team leaders that your annual progress reports were due yesterday. While I could forgive you all on the basis that Y2K took up unbudgeted time, I am a Prince of Darkness, so you had all better double your torment quotient this week instead.

From: X Mammon, UK tax system project

To: Nick Beelzebub

Date: 13:52:01:01:00

Nick, my report will be with you very shortly. But I think you should know now that we have an issue with this project and we may need to refocus.

From: Nick Beelzebub

To: X Mammon

Date: 18:09:01:01:00

What in hell do you mean, X? This is a long-range project and a basic component of our UK strategy. We’ve been working on this one for decades. Anyway, the UK tax system is wonderful. It’s complex, chaotic, it drives people round the twist and generally promotes Anger, Envy and Avarice. What better material could you have? What’s the problem?

From: X Mammon

To: Nick Beelzebub

Date 18:57:01:01:00

Nick, I know. On paper, the potential for sheer moral degradation in the UK tax system is immense, and it has just got better and better over the years. Its beauty is that it doesn’t matter which lot of humans are playing with it: you can always get them to mess it up. But it’s never been as simple as it looks. I’ve lost some of my best people over it. They can’t handle it.

You may remember our major effort about ten years ago when for a time it seemed we had persuaded humans that rich people needed to pay less tax, to make them work harder, while poor people needed to pay more, to make them work harder. Then we topped it by persuading the same lot of humans that simultaneously they should tax people according to the size of their houses. The trouble was that the intellectual confusion this engendered in the demon team concerned was so huge that all three of them had to take prolonged sick leave, and they are still on light duties, in various eastern European economies.

Since then we have made steady if not spectacular progress – we haven’t managed to produce another huge strategic error, but we have maintained a high general irritation level. In some ways it’s pathetically easy. Just get into the minds of the humans in charge. Appeal to their vanity. Do they want to go down in history as great reformers? Do they want to strut around the place telling everyone else what to do? Do they – and this is a very powerful one – simply want everyone to like them? Then apply their weaknesses to the tax system. Get them to meddle uselessly with piddling little allowances and charges that simply add to costs, get them to announce grandiose new reforms without thinking them through, get them to fiddle the figures…the list is endless. And that’s our problem. I feel we’ve lost focus. More than that, I’m getting the feeling that we’re losing control of events.

[Phone call transcript – extract]

[Call date 01:01:00 time 19:29:44]

Beelzebub: It’s Nick here. What are you getting at, X? You don’t mean The Opposition, do you?

Mammon: No, I don’t think it’s that. The current mob of chief humans certainly believe they can walk on water, but I’ve seen the real thing. Look, I’ve just about finished my report. I’ll e-mail it to you this evening. You read it and you’ll see what I mean.

Beelzebub: OK. I’ll wait for it. But I don’t like the sound of this. I’ll be on to you first thing.

Mammon: Fine. I’d really appreciate your perspective on this.

From: X Mammon

To: Nick Beelzebub

Date 20:12:01:01:00

The report, entitled Complete subversion of the UK tax system, aims to ensure that the system is as expensive, uncertain, complex and unfair as possible. ‘This to be achieved by encouraging humans in charge of it to keep trying to “improve” it. Current round of projects date from 1997 and are targeted to appeal to the present chief humans, whose overriding weakness is their complete inability to leave anything alone,’ it says.

From: Nick Beelzebub

To: X Mammon

Date: 08:17:02:01:00

I have received and read your report. I have also made enquiries of the Chairman’s office and can assure you that there are no covert operations taking place in the UK. For what that’s worth.

I must say I don’t necessarily share your worry. I agree we might not have thought of that service company wheeze ourselves, but you should look on this as a triumph. If you’ve got so far into their tiny little minds that they can think of insanities all on their own, you’ve won, not lost. You can’t control everything, you know. You’ve been hanging around in dark corners in Millbank for too long. Take a holiday.

From: X Mammon

To: Nick Beelzebub

Date: 09:01:02:01:00

I’m sure you’re right. We’ve probably tried to do too much and push too hard, and that’s what’s caused the strain. We’ll reinforce our position this year, make sure all the human parties are as intellectually incoherent as possible and look forward to some serious confusion after the election. Is this strategy agreed?

To: X Mammon

From: Nick Beelzebub

Date: 11:15:02:01:00

Your strategy is agreed.

Ernst & Young

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