Monday, 23 July 2012

Sympathy for tax dodgers?

English: J Sainsbury PLC Sainsburys old logo.
Would they steal from Sainsbury's? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Daily Mail is not my favourite newspaper, but in view of its significant readership on and off-line, it must be one “the public” likes and therefore its readership is representative of “the public's “ views.

As I write this there is more faux outrage because the BBC had decided to save licence-payers money by avoiding paying Employer's NIC on the pay of many of its staff's remuneration by engaging them as contractors. Additionally they avoided falling foul of the considerable costs which would be incurred in having these people as employees, including pension schemes and paying them off when they were sacked; this as opposed to waiting for their service company contracts to lapse. Very sensible, I would have thought.

As we know, the BBC's practice in this regard is in line with many Government departments, local authorities and the NHS. We should all be upset if those bodies didn't do their best to save taxpayers' money.

Yet somehow the couple in this story of tax-dodging crooks in the same newspaper attracts sympathy from the commenters. You will not have time to read all the comments. It is hard to read very many without getting annoyed. A couple of classics are “at least they weren't scrounging benefit from the state as well as earning money” and “victim-less crime”.

For the record I think this pair of tax dodgers deserved everything they got, but judging from the comments I am in the minority in “the public”. Apparently it is not so bad to fiddle your taxes as it is to fiddle a claim for benefit. I suppose the person who thinks robbing the State of £85,000 is a victimless crime probably believes that it is the same as shoplifting at Sainsburys. After all, no one gets hurt so it must be all right.

Except of course people do get hurt. Honest taxpayers have to pay more because some are on the fiddle. Sainsburys' shareholders (including our pension funds) lose and customers have to pay more to subsidise the losses. Where is the difference? It is stealing. In both cases it amounts to stealing from you and me.

I suppose it is too much to suppose that the politicians quoted in the BBC story would have much grasp in understanding the issues before feeling free to comment, so at the other end of the spectrum I shouldn't expect the Daily Mail readership to grasp that most of them are being robbed by these market traders outside the system.

We are all being mugged by the fiddlers. I think tax avoidance (legal) is a question of personal morality for individuals and as long as they abide by the law it is up to them. I can have a view but accept it may not be the same as theirs. Tax evasion is breaking the law and I am sure we are all agreed it is immoral. Or are we?
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