There was a time when governments realised the value of educating people to join the workforce, and consequently help the country to trade more profitably. But when Labour, (and Tony and Gordon specifically) took control, one of their changes was to add VAT to the previously exempt cost of training.
It was a bitter blow at the time, and showed no foresight or consideration of the consequences - small wonder we're now so short of qualified individuals in the IT industry. Along with many others, it was just another one of those stealth taxes from Chancellor Brown, out for a quick gain despite the dire problems it was stacking up for the future.
But in these times of great economic hardship, how can the government justify still charging VAT on personal training programmes? Surely if any time was the right time to do the responsible thing, that time is now. Education and training are the backbone of a civilised, profitable society. Learning not only contributes to personal wealth, it is the major influence on the growth of successful companies and therefore the country as a whole. Taxing training puts it in the category of a luxury item - making the student pay the government for the extravagance of their learning experience!
But how many more young people could enter the world of IT training if their expenses were cut by 20%? On the one hand, we have employers crying out for qualified IT professionals, and on the other we have a closed door to many who just haven't the money to get onto that first rung of the ladder. Companies can't afford to start the training process for their staff - they look for those who've already begun to develop their skills and gained commercial qualifications.
This prohibitive tax hurts the individual consumer - companies who pay for further staff training can claim the VAT back from the government, so apart from extra administration they're not affected. The training companies themselves gain nothing from charging VAT - they have to pay it straight on to the taxman! On the contrary, if training was tax exempt, more people could afford to study, so more qualified IT personnel could fill the many vacancies available, and businesses would have more chance of thriving in these challenging times.
The only group appearing to benefit financially from VAT on training is the government. But is it really? Surely it's in the country's best interests to encourage training, and have a more educated, employable workforce. Commercial training doesn't enjoy the financial support of low interest student loans as universities do...
The very least the Chancellor could do is not charge VAT!
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