Last week, Buckingham Palace released figures on the cost of the monarchy on British taxpayers -- 36.2 million pounds, or a cost to every man, woman and child equivalent to that of one loaf of bread. At 60 pence (about U.S. $1), it would seem a bargain -- this is the type of ceremony, after all, that draws visitors from around the world -- except that nothing is a bargain here.
Taxes are as institutionalized as titles. While Russia enjoys a flat income-tax rate of 13 percent, Brits pay 22 percent of their income, graduated up to 40 percent for the top-income bracket (those earning more than 35,000 pounds or about U.S. $58,000). After they've paid their income taxes, they pay a 17.5 percent national sales tax called the Value Added Tax.
The VAT drives up the cost of everything. A yoga mat that goes for $25 plus tax in the United States cost 32 pounds (about U.S. $53) in Covent Garden. The VAT applies to services, such as a plumber's bill, as well.
At the "Prime Minister's Question Time" last week, Tony Blair described the tax increases implemented under him as "extra investment."
It's really extra burdens. The taxes are so consuming that you wonder how the working families outside Guildhall can afford simple things, like a yoga mat -- never mind a fur-lined cape.