Tuesday 26 April 2005

Gordon bloody Brown.

My employers have just announced a sharesave scheme, which is great. I was in one of these schemes once before, with British Gas Services, and it was rather a good earner. For those of you who don't know, it's a pretty simple idea. You opt to put aside a portion of your salary for three years. At the end of the three years, you get a small bonus added to the total. You then get the option of either taking the money or spending it all on shares in your company. The good bit is that you get to buy the shares at a price fixed at the start of the scheme — so, for instance, my employers could pick a share price of 50p today, and, even if the shares are worth 500p in three years time, I still get to buy them at 50p each — and then immediately resell them, if I wish. Fantastic. Of course, the price could also go down, but I can choose to take the money instead of the shares, so the worst-case scenario is that I get the small bonus. It's a very small bonus, but it's still great by the standards of worst-case scenarios.

I was just about to sign up when I spotted this in the Ts & Cs:

Remember, tax legislation can be changed by the Government, and the rules that apply today may be different when you come to exercise your option or sell your shares.

Good point. Labour are going to win this election, and they've promised not to touch income tax, which means they'll be looking for other things to tax. Would anyone in their right minds think that sharesave schemes aren't prime candidates? Brown might not tax the hell out of this at some point in the next three years, but the risk seems to me to be very high.

Sharesave schemes are good in all sorts of ways: they're a form of saving; they're easy risk-free investment for the working classes; they give employees the opportunity to exert control over their companies and to share in their companies' profits; they give people, including those on low wages, nice big fat lump sums; they give companies a good way of raising funds from their employees without ripping them off. They're just plain good. And here I am, worried about joining one because I am all too aware of our "prudent" Chancellor's record. If his actions have been so good for the economy, then how comes they are discouraging me from taking action that would be good for the economy?

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