Dogs And Taxes

I returned home from a trip to find in the stack of unopened post, a letter from our local town council. The letter was addressed to the “owners” of our house, not addressed specifically to me by name.

Usually these types of letters are general updates on what the council intends to do, vis-a-vis planting new trees or plants, building a new school or playground for the kids, so I was shocked to read that they had decided that from January 1st 2012, all dogs owners would be required to register their dogs with the council so that they could then send me an invoice for dog tax.

Three things about this annoyed me:

The first was that this tax is aimed specifically and exclusively at dog owners. There is no mention of a tax for cat owners. Now, I will readily admit that I’m a dog lover. I’m not overly enamoured about cats at all. Most cat owners here let their cats out into the neighbourhood, and very early on, the ones that would have traditionally used our garden as a toilet learned very quickly to find a new place to take a dump once our dog arrived on the scene.

Cat owners in general are the first to complain if they see your dog taking a pee or a shit anywhere that might result in them trodding in it. But they could give a flying fuck about where their cat goes to relieve themselves, even if it is in the next-door neighbours garden. Most dog owners are responsible, walking their dogs on a lease until they get to the sanctioned dog walking area before letting them loose, picking up after their dog, and making sure that their dogs behave themselves and don’t bark and howl incessantly. Most cat owners, I have found, are as selfish as their feline charges.

Which lead me to the second thing that annoyed me. Why is this tax exclusively laid at the door of dog owners? Why isn’t there a cat tax? What is it specifically that dogs do to warrant a tax being slapped on their furry asses that cats are not admonished for? And more to the point, if I am now having to pay a tax on my pooch, what am I going to get in return? If it’s just a ploy to raise more coppers for the councils war chest, then I have a problem with it. But if it’s to do things like placing poop bins and bags etc, then I’m OK with it I guess. When asked, the council said that the local law is based on a National law, which in itself has nothing related to a tax on cats enshrined in it anywhere. Thus, they explained, they were unable to include anything pertaining to a “cat tax” when they drafted this local bye-law.

A quick Google search later revealed that this dog tax harks back to the Middle Ages when poor peasants who owned dogs used them as a form of protected transport, pulling them around in a little carriage….an armoured car that can bite the hand off you, as it were. It seems that our Middle Ages forefathers introduced this tax as a way of dissuading owners from keeping too many dogs in efforts to minimise the spread of disease amongst the canine population

The last thing that began to annoy me was the fact that the letter never even mentioned how much this tax was. After a quick call to the council, I found out it will cost me €77 per annum. Not a lot of money, you might think. But now consider this. The money will not, as it transpires, be used for the specific benefit of the local dog population and their owners. It is simply another rouse to tax hard-earned money from my pockets to prop up the coffers of the council. Money they can use for whatever they want.

Rather than increasing everyone’s local taxes in the area, they decided, for whatever inane logical reason I fail to fathom, to specifically target dog owners. Add to that the fact that they will now have to police this, which means having to hire a bunch of NIMBY-minded-pencil-pushing-toe-the-line-I-have-a-uniform-and-I-am-God type inspectors roaming the city, pressing their noses up against my window, looking inside to see if there is a dog sleeping contentedly, and then checking up in their little database to see if I have paid my tax or not.

I hardly think that the amount of money they will generate from such a tax is enough to pay for the ludicrous salary, pension and taxes said Public Sector employees would get AND make them a profit at the same time. Maybe if you added the local cat population into the mix, you might make some real dough!

The questions I find myself asking are, if I should let sleeping dogs lie and just pay the money, or if I should see if the councils bark is worse than their bite?

Over Engineered Fun

A Brooklyn hipster and kinetic artist, Joseph Herscher, has cleverly (or stupidly, depending on your frame of mind) come up with the “Mousetrap” style contraption to turn the pages of his morning paper while he’s imbibing in a cup of java.

Personally I don’t think he’s given this much thought at all. I mean, what happens if the got distracted, like a phone ringing, and he hadn’t finished reading the page before the whole thing was set off? Seems like it’s back to the drawing board if you ask me.

Electric Avenue

So you’ve seen the new advert for Renault’s new electric car range, right?

A clever little piece of advertising. But I can’t shift that nagging reality that pure electric cars are really only useful for things like the school-run or the weekly shop. Given that it takes upwards of 6 hours to recharge the thing when you’ve run out of juice, it’s hardly the vehicle of choice for those trips to the south of France with caravan in tow. I doubt many Dutch will be buying them in large quantities for that very reason.

Why we have not pushed towards a more sustainable and logical solution like hydrogen cell powered cars is beyond me. It would eliminate the lacklustre tiny legs of current electric cars, enabling people to make continental crossings in the cars without the recharging hassles. And the only emission coming directly from the car would be water! Harnessing hydrogen can be done in an eco-friendly way too, by means of using renewable energy sources to capture hydrogen via electrolysis and then storing it for transportation and pumping into cars.

In fact, one cannot help think that the initial first owners of these pure electric cars aren’t going to go the way of those first “Betamax” owners. Who knows.

We’ll see what the take-up of these cars looks like soon enough. For now though, I think gas prices are set to only increase further and the combustion engine is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

Who Knew The French Could Be So Funny?

This little gem comes from the artistic creativeness of Hugo Jackson, Pascal Chandelier, Valentin Michel, Bastien Mortelecque and Elliot Maren, who are from ESMA (Ecole Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques) in Toulouse.

Well written, superbly animated and being typically French, an undeniable focus on boobs that can be found in all French men 🙂 Enjoy!

Waste Not, Want Not

I’ll readily admit to bin-diving. Given how much quality stuff that I saw simply thrown out on the street, never recycled, in an area I once lived in Amsterdam, it was almost a sin to pass it by and not even think about taking it and reusing it. In fact, one of my better finds was a black leather sofa which stood me in good stead until I moved into the house I own today.

Given this age we live in today, and the wastefulness that seems to be forever interlinked with consumerism and capitalism, one man is determined to turn one man’s trash into his own treasure. With supermarkets where he lives (incidentally, I doubt anyone would be surprised to learn it’s in the United States) chucking out entire truckloads of food, he has been able to provide for and put food on his family’s table that would have otherwise found its way into a landfill somewhere.

So the next time you find yourself between the aisles driving a shopping trolley, think before you put that next box or packet of whatever it is you think you NEED, and check your cupboards and fridge before you head off to the shops. You may find that you’ve got it in stock already, which will mean that you’re not adding to the billions of wasted food that gets binned annually across the globe

Could Audi See Sales Drop Next Year?

It’s been approximately six years since the average speed freak sales-rep swapped his company BMW car keys for those of an Audi. Now whenever you see someone in the mirror driving up your arse, the lights that are flashing you are invariably those of that menacing looking Audi and the greasy, slick back haired wanker driving it. It matters not a jot to them that you are already going as fast as the legal limit will allow, or that the driving conditions are not exactly conducive to driving around with your hair on fire.

But now the world is entering its fourth year of economic stagnation. In fact, if you’re living  in a eurozone country, chances are you might very well find yourself re-entering a recession soon. That’s certainly the projected forecast for here in the Netherlands. Whilst it’s largest next-door neighbour, Germany, recently announced low unemployment levels not seen since 1991, the Netherlands is experiencing unprecedented cuts to its welfare state and seeing overall government spending slashed. Given that 15% of the Dutch working population is employed by the Public Sector, a reduction in their spending patterns is enough to spin the economy back into a recession, having long lasting knock-on effects for the rest of the country. Which translates into Private Sector employers cutting back on perks and travel.

Aside from the basic salary and accompanying taxes an employer has to pay, the next biggest employee related items an employer typically spends money on is the pension scheme and employee perks (usually health insurance and company car). Pension contributions are largely driven in most Continental European countries by government policy, hence there is not much an employer can do to save money there. So the real area an employer can save money is by reducing salaries and reducing or eliminating the perks. Given that the clever companies will opt to retain top talent, leaving salaries untouched and taking a scalpel to the deadwood, that really only leaves one option. The company car.

Depending on which country you live in in Europe, this can be perceived as the slaughtering of the sacred cow. An unholy act that most unions and “works councils” will fight tooth and nail to leave unchanged and untouched. “How dare management think about taking away my car! But it’s my right, along with my six weeks of paid vacation.”

I’m not predicting a total drop in sales for Audi. Afterall, Russia, China and India’s economies are still buoyant (for the time being) with the nouveau riche chomping at the bit to own and drive a piece of German engineering. And there will still be enough greasy haired speed freak wankers left in Europe to buy the latest model to roll off the production line. But I am expecting that the leased ones already on the roads will probably see their leases being extended by an additional year or two, whilst the ones whose car policy has been impacted will probably revert to Golf GTi’s. Depending on the margins between brands, that could be good or bad news for Audi’s parent, Volkswagen.