Is tax avoidance morally wrong?
Filed under: Tax
Tax avoidance has gotten everyone talking. Those vehemently opposed have been citing morality, social consciousness and the lack of contribution to society. Those remaining largely nonplussed have been relying on the fact that despite all the vitriol around the topic, fundamentally, tax avoidance is legal.
So, are taxes a price for freedom and social advantages? Or is it nothing new and something the government need to sort out before they start throwing stones?
Two of our writers Damian Wilson and Elliot lane, in the yes and no camps respectively, are going to duke out the issue. Read on and please do post your comments below.
Yes - it's a price we should gladly pay for freedom and advantage
No, and Jimmy Carr did nothing wrong
Members of the Irish rock group U2 have been vilified for their tax arrangements and are constantly justifying why they can on one hand campaign for the rights of the socially deprived and oppressed, while still moving their finances from one tax haven in Ireland to another in the Netherlands. The argument is that they are not tax evaders but are just tax efficient, having paid millions to various jurisdictions over the years.
So why has the Prime Minister decided to meddle in the business affairs of private individuals? His party is the supporter of free enterprise and a few months ago cut the wealthy's tax bill to stimulate growth.
Cameron and the Coalition seem to have a predilection towards scoring own goals. After setting up the Levenson inquiry to investigate the immoral behaviour of the British press, the exercise has back-fired on Cameron, creating a modern Star Chamber which has exposed the murky workings and morality of Parliament instead.
He is now throwing yet more rocks in his glass house, as his own father built the family's inheritance in the tax havens of Geneva and Panama City. These were entirely legal and Cameron benefited from a £300,000 windfall after his father died in 2010. His moral compass seems slightly out of kilter.
As a global statesman trying to navigate the UK's future economy through the iceberg-ladened Eurozone crisis, this does seem to be a petty argument to become involved in. The 'shareholder spring' gave City observers hope that politicians would stay out of the micro-management of the financial sector, and stick to rectifying the macro problems. Sadly not.
Carr may have made a "terrible error of judgment" but the HMRC should make that decision in a tax tribunal. And suddenly Gary Barlow is of no interest to Downing St but the Labour Party (far more Take That fans, shurely) decides to pick on him.
If this is the start of the silly season, let's hope the comedic community can give us some better jokes. The Edinburgh Fringe may have a few accountants trying their hand at stand up this year.