When crime pays

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As a small business or sole trader, one of the first things you have to get to grips with is what you can claim against tax and what you can’t. You carefully work out your mileage, payments, expenses etc… it’s not rocket science as long as you’re organised and keep a decent record. I’m not organised. My record keeping is poor in all honesty, but even I manage to muddle through the year and fill in my tax return accurately, even if I do end up catching up on months’ worth of accounts at once rather than doing it month by month.

It’s important to me, if I made a mistake, even a genuine one, I’d be asked to pay the money back… fair enough? Well not if you’re an MP apparently. For years now we’ve been bombarded by the press with ‘MP Expense Scandal’ and the like. The most recent being Maria Miller, accused of claiming £90,000 against a mortgage for a home for her parents. Okay, accidents happen right?  So she pays back the money and we all get on with our lives? Well, no actually. She was investigated and the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards criticised her attitude to the enquiry and recommended £45,000 be paid back. This was in February. In April however, The MPs of the Standards Committee decided their commissioner had been too strict and overruled her, ordering Miller to pay just £5,800 back and apologise in the House of Commons. It’s believed she was the first serving minister to be forced to apologise for misusing expenses. Her apology lasted 32 seconds.

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To sum up, £90,000 was ‘incorrectly’ claimed and £5,800 requested to be repaid. Let’s do the maths… £84,200 ‘profit’ then. A 32 second apology isn’t too bad a price to pay for that I’d say. She has since resigned but not because she feels she did anything wrong, oh no; because she feels she is a ‘distraction’ to the rest of her party and their policies.  Uh huh.

Theft is theft and although I understand there are degrees of seriousness, we have to remember that our justice system put a man in prison for stealing a bottle of water during the London Riots to ‘make an example’ of him. How then can it be justified that someone who ‘accidentally’ takes £90,000 not only doesn’t have to pay it all back but gets away with a 32 second apology as punishment? It’s absolutely crazy. Theft is theft and if she’d taken £90,000 out of some little old dear’s bank account she’d be facing a prison sentence. I guess it’s alright if you take it from the pockets of the public en masse.

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