How tedious that one of the Queen’s birthday honourees should be the subject of a political squabble about the morality or otherwise of his tax avoidance.
Is it that neither of the political greenhorns has yet learnt that public debate on tax and morality is always a dead-end conversion?
Even if you pick one of the most, to your understanding, egregious examples of perfectly legal tax avoidance, and seek to fashion a question of ‘morality’ around it, all that happens is that you quickly realise that political discourse about tax policy is not usefully grounded in probity.
What elevates tax avoidance to a question of ‘virtue’ or ‘godliness’ and so become the subject of public outrage (or dare we say it – admiration); political pot-shots and most incredible of all, calls to rebuff a Sovereign’s largesse?
Certainly if tax avoidance is of a kind to trigger an investigation by a national revenue authourity to decide whether what was done amounted, not to the avoidance of tax, but to its evasion, then clearly depending on the outcome of the probe, the practice should then be air-marked for proscription under law.
It used to be trite to recite the distinction between ‘avoidance’ and ‘evasion’ but these days great confusion has been caused by the characterisation of so-called ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance as ‘reprehensible’ and its practitioners moral reprobates.
Rather than trying to gain consensus about the ethics of ‘avoidance’ it might be infinitely more useful to decide that an overly effective avoidance scheme ought to be classified as ‘evasion’ in law; saving taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike the impossible task of reconciling their own desire to pay as little tax as is legally possible and self-doubts about their own piousness.
Is it possible that the answer has much to do with the fact that governments are consistent in their loathing of arcane and complicated domestic tax systems which, like sediment, have built up over centuries to such a depth that to get to the foundations of the law is too difficult a task for even seasoned politicos?
To read what all the fuss is about see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18535642#