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Friday, October 14, 2011:

AFR's editing misrepresents LVRG

The following text, without the italics, was submitted as a letter to the Australian Financial Review two days ago:

Wiping transaction taxes

“If our tax system calculated tax payable by reference to the gross consideration of every transaction, and did not reduce it with any deductions, and eliminated all other taxes,” etc., etc., then, contrary to the claim of Antony Robb (“Wiping Wickenby”, Letters, October 12), we would not “eliminate the use of tax planning”. We would merely ensure that all tax planning took the form of avoiding transactions. Economies of scale and specialization would be abandoned in pursuit of vertical integration, causing a loss of competitiveness; vertical integration is protectionism implemented at the enterprise level instead of the national level.

But the pace of vertical integration would be unpredictable, making it impossible for governments to calculate their tax bases. It's hard to imagine a more perfect recipe for fiscal chaos.

Dr. Gavin R. Putland
Land Values Research Group
. . .

The words in quotation marks (without the italics) are Robb's, as is the first “we”, which obviously shares its antecedent with the earlier “our” and the subsequent “We”.

But in the version printed today (Oct.14), the latter “We” has been replaced by “Our group”. What group? The only possible answer is the Land Values Research Group — especially as the printed version inserts a paragraph break before “Our group”.

No, the LVRG does not advocate vertical integration and protectionism. What it does advocate is the financing of public expenditure out of economic rents rather than taxes on productive transactions.

The printed version also omits the quotation marks around opening quote, giving Mr Robb less than his due, and making it hard to fathom the “etc., etc.”

The statement at the foot of the AFR's “Letters” page warns that letters “will be edited for clarity and length.” Concerning “clarity”, it behoves editors to remember that, just occasionally, contributors write what they meant to write.

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