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Where Do You Work

The Answer Might Not Be Where You Think … which was what my original newsletter was about – and then one of my readers wrote this. Can’t say I disagree.

A response to a recent newsletter. Specifically one where I explored Work Location. (You might want to click in and have a read to get the context.)

Sometimes people have a lot to say, but they don’t join into the dialogue – nor even make comments. I get it. I really do. Another post from an anonymous reader, this time answering something I wrote in a newsletter and again – reproduced with permission from the original writer.

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

Now, this is a subject that really gets to me!!

I have long argued that the biggest conflict in the world today is that between global and tribal politics. I have met anthropologists who maintain that the human-animal is basically tribal – pre-programmed by history, if not genetics, ‘to want to belong’. They argue that this is at the root of all sorts of things we see today – including racism/xenophobia at the most serious level and, more prosaically, things like fashion fads, football fans, pop group mania, etc., at the daily level. However, there is, in my eyes at least, clear evidence of emerging subsets of humans who want to throw all that away in favour of seeing the world, and our species, holistically.

One rather crude indicator of this – a frequent topic in my Operations and Supply Chain Management consultancy and teaching – is the tension between global companies (not of all which are the spawn of the devil, planet-destroying, secret cabal members, but simply businesses whose raw materials, skill-base and customers cannot be defined by random, historical, “lines on the ground”) and national Governments, most obviously over issues like differing tax regimes (and where it’s paid) and customs (import/export) processes.

Extend this to the individual with the option of working at very long distance from ‘the office’, and we see similar issues. Some 6 years ago, I did a piece of work for a Greek client, itself funded by the EU, whose direct customers were mainly from the new Eastern EU member states. HMRC was out of the traps like a top greyhound: within days I was in receipt of paperwork explaining what I needed to do to make sure that my work was taxed (and subject to National Insurance) ‘here in the UK’ (despite me NOT actually being in the UK), rather than in Greece. I presume the argument would be that we are a UK-registered company, I am a UK citizen and the education/experience that enabled me to win the contract were gained in the UK, some of it at University, at the taxpayer’s expense. That’s fair enough. However, many of the people who would say “quite right too” are EXACTLY the same people who complain when a US company, say, elects not to be taxed in the UK on earnings made here. Yet, those companies are employing UK people, who pay (quiet a lot) of tax, when you take NI, VAT, duty etc., into account as well as direct PAYE, they are renting or buying UK property, and paying local tax on it, they are consuming UK products and services that create more jobs and tax, etc. If they moved all their operations out of the UK, would we win or lose? It’s not such an easy calculation as the ‘red top fury’ suggests.

So, back to your individual, living where (s)he wants to live but working for a company ‘back home’, or, in the extreme, in the economy that places the highest monetary value on her/his skills. Would (s)he pay tax in the country of residence, the country of origin, the country employment, or several of these? Would the value of the residence (shopping local tax, etc.) be offset against the value of direct employment taxation in deciding policy?

Or is this another nail in the coffin of nationalistic division?

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