We don't seem to value higher rate taxpayers enough in Britain. They are either idle aristocrats whose purses deserve to be plundered or they have acquired their wealth via unscrupulous means. They probably spend all their money on cocaine, fast cars and lunches at the Fat Duck.
So it is no surprise that very wealthy Britons like to sequester away their savings offshore or behind labarynthine trusts, funds and financial vehicles. It matters so much to some of them that, as we saw recently, they will even renounce their right to sit in the House of Lords (although Michael Ashcroft, the paragon of virtue that he is, has decided to become a proper noble baron of Britain and not British Honduras).
How can we as a nation rectify our wrongs and learn to value those scions of industry, those masters of the universe? It is they, after all, who pave our roads, who stock our admirable NHS with increasingly expensive drugs, who fund the training of the finest armed forces in the world, who employ our teachers and who pay for our welfare state.
Two-thirds of this country pay no income tax whatsoever. Two-thirds. We learnt just before the election that higher-rate taxpayers (in the 40 and 50 pence brackets) contribute 56 per cent of the £161 billion income tax figure. HMRC expects a bumper year in 2010-11, with an extra £10 billion raised, almost all from 40 and 50 pence taxpayers.
So at the weekend I chanced upon a suggestion by a learned and influential friend. Let us publicly reward the tiny minority of taxpayers bankrolling this bankrupt nation towards recovery by acknowledging their achievements.
Every year, the Inland Revenue should send the biggest taxpayers some sort of recognition of their generosity not to funnel their funds away from these shores. It could be as small as a thank you card, or book tokens, or a bottle of bubbly (make it English, of course).
Currently it is a thankless task paying all that tax but thousands of people continue to do so out of national pride and duty. They might even go one step further and send their children to independent schools, or they will use private healthcare schemes, so saving the regular taxpayer billions of pounds that would otherwise have been spent on schools and the NHS.
We could live in a nation at ease with itself, knowing not only that the overwhelming majority of citizens are resplendently subsidised by an industrious and fortunate few, but also happy to thank them for it with a small token of appreciation.
Now wouldn't that be nice?