Thursday, 4 February 2010

Be responsible and pay your tax

Last Spring I wrote a piece entitled “Render unto Caesar...” which pretty much sets out my view concerning tax avoidance and those who are reluctant to pay tax. For the record I reiterate that I have no objection to people taking sensible uncomplicated steps to pay less tax. That is no different from choosing to fill your car with petrol, diesel or gas at a particular establishment which charges a little less than the one down the road. Daily essentials everyone buys on price because the value is the same. Complicated and artificial tax avoidance schemes really have no place in a responsible society.

There is a moral case to pay a fair share of tax. We may not like a particular Government but we all use the infrastructure, the roads, education, the health service and so on, and we should cough up according to our fair share. There are occasional refuseniks who choose to withhold a portion e.g. of their perceived share of the defence budget, quoting moral grounds, and they may at least appear principled if foolhardy in making a futile stand against the system, though at least gaining publicity for their cause.

What really gets my goat is those who dodge the system, take cash so that it does not go through their books and appear in their accounts (“save the VAT, mate?”) and those who fiddle in other ways, such as inflating their business expenses. None of these people are clients of us professional practitioners of course, because if we sign them up they are in the system they wish to avoid, and subject to our scrutiny.

Just the same, it is certain that there are still many tax dodgers and if any are reading this, let me tell you that if you have dodged £5,000 of tax you have stolen it from the Government and from us taxpayers and it is no different from stealing £5,000 from the state-owned Post Office. The punishment on getting caught may not be the same, but perhaps it should be? It is money taken from our back pockets.

The financial penalties for tax evasion have been raised subject to various targeted initiatives in particular areas. Should we see more custodial sentences? How can more dishonest tax evaders be caught given the limited resources of HMRC? What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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1 comment:

Neil Reddin said...

I think the problem is one of value for money. People feel that the level of taxation is excessive given what they are getting / what the state is spending their taxes on.

It's a perception reinforced more recently by MPs expenses (even though in the grand scheme of public finance, £1m is chicken feed) and the bank bailouts. Then there's the perennial complaints about over-generous welfare benefits, etc, etc.

To use your analogy, it's like filling up with the cheapest petrol you can find, then finding that you're still paying over the odds to subside the guy at the next pump who is allowed to fill up his Hummer for free.

Not that I'm condoning tax evasion ... just understanding the motivation.