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Tax is no throwaway joke

Updated 03 December 2020

3min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

As our TaxAction 2016 campaign gathers pace, we drop in on a typical affluent household somewhere in England… and catch them in the middle of some very odd behaviour.


Sally calls from the kitchen.

‘BRYCE! The bin bag needs changing!’

Bryce, in the study upstairs, is losing a fight with a self-assembly filing cabinet. ‘Maybe you could do it?’

‘Cooking, sweetie.’

‘Oh, just… crunch it down or something.’

‘I crunched it down yesterday,’ Sally tells him. ‘Now there’s egg shells spilling onto my shoes and I’ve nowhere to put the potato peelings.’

‘Okay… Give me five minutes.’

Sally huffs. ‘How can a small family generate so much rubbish? I mean where does it come from?’

‘Like what?’

‘Well this, for instance…’ Sally pulls out a wad of cash, damp with coffee grounds. ‘Here’s around a hundred and twenty quid from our savings and current accounts. Why on earth did we throw that away?’

Bryce drops his screwdriver. ‘Seriously?’

‘Verissimo. Can you remember chucking that in the bin? I’m sure I didn’t.’

Bryce comes down. ‘Don’t think that was me.’

‘Hmm. Still, there it is, taking up bin space. And what about this?’ Sally fishes out another big bundle of ten pound notes. ‘This must be from when our stock market investments went up last year. I thought you said you wanted to keep that money?’

‘I did, I did!’ Bryce insists. ‘But I was busy, I couldn’t find a good place to put it, and the bin was there, so…’

‘Tch.’ Sally rolls her eyes. ‘So wasteful. And look at all this stuff, bursting the bin liner! There must be thousands and thousands of pounds here.’

Bryce looks even more sheepish. ‘Oh yeah… I think that’s some money I was going to save for our retirement.’

‘Oh, how thoughtful, darling! What’s it doing in my bin?’

‘Well…’ Bryce blows out his cheeks. ‘I thought I’d keep it a while. In case we needed the cash now. But then I put it down, and got distracted, and the bin was there…’

‘Yes, I think I’m beginning to understand,’ says Sally. ‘So you’re telling me you threw away piles of money meant for our savings, our investments and our pensions just because you couldn’t be bothered to find anywhere better to keep it?’

‘No! No. Sort of. Yes.’ Bryce rallies. ‘But it wasn’t just me. You did it too! Half that money is yours.’

Sally ties up the rubbish sack with the screwed-up money inside.

‘Well, it’s done now,’ she sighs. ‘And I do need to use this bin. Will you at least take the bag out for me?’

Bryce does so.

‘You know, I was thinking,’ he remarks, as he comes back in. ‘Our house must be worth quite a bit now. And we’ve still got lots of savings, even though we threw out so much.’


‘Well,’ says Bryce. ‘When we die, should we leave it all to our kids?’

Sally stirs the sauté pan. ‘I’m sure they’d love that. But I don’t know… We’re very busy. It might be easier to chuck about fifty grand of it away. What do you think?’

‘Yeah, that would be simpler,’ says Bryce. ‘There’s just one problem with that.’

‘Which is?’

‘We’re gonna need a bigger bin.’

‘Not a problem,’ Sally smiles. ‘There’s a sale on in town.’


Of course you wouldn’t do the same as Sally and Bryce – or would you? The truth is, you’re probably making similar mistakes right now. Collectively UK taxpayers will waste £4.6 billion this year by not making better use of the tax allowances available to everyone – such as saving into ISAs, contributing into a pension and planning for inheritance tax. It amounts to just throwing money away.Tax Trimmer_thumbnail_small

To find out how easy it is to keep more for yourself, check out our new Tax Waste Trimmer. It gives you a breakdown of all the areas where you may be losing money needlessly. For even more insights on this, check out our TaxAction homepage.

If you’re keen to improve your overall tax efficiency, why not raise it as a question on MoneyFlex? MoneyFlex is our new Q&A community where you can ask questions of financial advisers free of charge, and browse other people’s questions too. Click over there now and check it out!

About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.