Moral outrage on tax avoidance is misplaced
Our MPs should know the best antidote to the UK’s taxation woes is to simplify the tax system
Last week, in one of those moral panics that occasionally grip the nation, The Times was awash with a major investigation about “aggressive tax avoidance.”
Just when the entire Western world is concerned about its finances, it was a timely and relevant investigation.
But, like most things, did it promise more than it has delivered? Let us start by focusing on the so-called moral issue of “aggressive tax avoidance”, which the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, foams at the mouth when he is discussing.
Mr Alexander, of all members of this government behaves like some born-again believer, with messianic zeal. He behaves like a man possessed.
Like most converts to new religious sects, Mr Alexander acts as if he does not see a moral difference between a wicked person and a simple sinner – between tax avoidance, which is legal, and tax evasion, which is not.
In a free and democratic society we must learn to tolerate all kinds as long as they play by the rules, and making proper provision for old age is responsible
This deliberate blurring of the difference between doing something that is legitimate and re-interpreting it as an illegal act is disingenuous and dangerous for it introduces a free-for-all in terms of which laws we accept and which we do not. It is how moral witch-hunts start.
Some of us may not like tattoos, or smoking, or binge-drinking, or loud noise, or even rowdy football fans, but that does not make any of those activities illegal.
In a free, tolerant and democratic society we must learn to tolerate all kinds, as long as they play by the rules, and making proper provision for our old age is highly responsible.
Sportspersons and entertainers have a very short shelf life and it would be irresponsible to squander their high earnings, or over pay their taxes, just to be good citizens.
Good citizenship is an obligation on all of us, individuals, families, communities and corporate organisations.
Financial advisers are there to provide their clients, and in particular their high net-worth ones, with the best financial advice they can possibly give, including legal ways of minimising their tax obligations.
There is no difference to a high net-worth person going to a leading Harley Street consultant for the very best medical advice.
Few sensible people will say that looking after their physical health is morally wrong and because they are wealthy they are having an advantage on the less wealthy.
In such circumstances, the real issue is the quality of treatment in the national health service and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence using its powers to allocate medicines as if playing God.
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