Employers could receive tax breaks for setting up slimming clubs, team weigh-ins and jogging groups under NHS plans to combat obesity. Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, outlined the radical proposal after warning that the country is “sleepwalking into the worst public health emergency for at least three decades.”
In order to tackle the crisis, Mr Stevens proposes a new system for England, in which employers would be financially rewarded for introducing schemes to help workers shed the pounds. Mr Stevens said employers would only receive tax breaks if their programmes met certified standards agreed by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.
This is plain silly. One of the reasons we have just been ranked 21 out of 34 on an international tax competitive index is because of the ridiculous complexity of our tax code and the number of stupid little provisions which between them aren’t worth a row of beans but which clutter up the tax system. It’s about time we got back to recognising that the principal purpose of a tax system is to raise money (or, as someone put it, to pluck the maximum number of feathers with the minimum amount of clucking) – not to distort behaviours with every Tom Dick and Harry clamouring for a special tax break for his favourite pet project or a special tax charge to penalise his favourite bugbear. If employers want to encourage their Bunteresque employees to lay off the sticky buns, that’s all very fair and laudable – but it’s not something into which HMRC needs to poke its sticky fingers.