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17th Apr 2020

John in Lockdown (8)

Instalment 8

by Burns Team Writer

Coronavirus Lockdown April 16th 2020

In my last piece of brilliant commentary on our nation, I mentioned the fiasco of the George Osborne/David Cameron inspired austerity programme which resulted in the hollowing out of our public services. This was promoted as a necessity to correct the profligate spending of the previous Labour administration, when it was actually due to the greed and recklessness of the banks.

One of the low points in my life was when, some years ago, as guest speaker, I pointed out the flaw in austerity to a Tory-heavy audience at a Pembrokeshire Agricultural Show Dinner. I quoted my late father-in-law, a Pembrokeshire farmer who used to say, ‘Money is made to go round’, a simple philosophy which hadn’t reached George Osborne.  This did not go down well. I offer that as a prelude to the following little story sent to me by my brother which I think is worth sharing:

It is a slow day in the small Saskatchewan town of Pumphandle, and streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and living on credit. A tourist visiting the area drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night.

As soon as he walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to his supplier, the Co-op.

The guy at the Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her “services” on credit. The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.

The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, picks up the $100 bill and leaves. No one produced anything. No one earned anything…However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a Stimulus Package works.

The Chinese may be about to change the status of dogs from livestock to pets.  This can only be good news if true.  It will surely lead to a change in the practice of eating dogs in that country at least. This cannot be coincidence that it follows the coronavirus which is thought to have originated in the practice of eating wild animals, so-called ‘wet markets’ but actually ‘wildlife markets’.  China looking to polish its tarnished reputation?

This distinction between pets and livestock has relevance here. As an erstwhile victim of HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) which recently tried to sting Burns for over £2 million in uncollected VAT for selling Burns Alert for Assistance Dogs. Food for working dogs is exempt from VAT but HMRC claimed that Alert wasn’t a working dog food and therefore liable for VAT.

Fortunately we won our argument on that one. It appears that the law on VAT isn’t really about working dog food but about livestock.  Food for livestock is exempt whereas food for pets isn’t. HMRC guidelines on VAT for dog food bear no resemblance to what is actually the law. Is that clear??

For the record: over 40 members of Burns staff are on furlough. [Furlough: leave of absence especially from the military]. In our case this may be because they can’t do their job due to lockdown; or it may be because they have childcare obligations or they or a family member is in a susceptible category. Whatever the reason, all are on full pay.