My thanks to a loyal reader who dropped me a note about a recent hot seat question and answer session, in which Lin Homer was asked about tax avoidance.
The exchange, according to my loyal reader, went as follows:
"Q: Ian Barlow (the new lead HMRC non -executive director) has been reported in the press as saying:Egad!
'There is no meaningful distinction to be drawn between acceptable tax planning and unacceptable tax avoidance.'
Do you agree with this statement?
If not can you explain why a person holding such views has been appointed to a senior position in HMRC?
Edward Troup (the new Tax Assurance Commissioner) has written that:
'Taxation is legalised extortion'
In the same article he said that the judgement about whether to engage in tax avoidance or not was 'not immoral'.
Do you agree with these sentiments?
If not would you again explain why such a person could be appointed to a senior position in HMRC?
Lin Homer responded: The views that Ian Barlow expressed in the article were several years old, and in fact he was making the point that legally there is no distinction between acceptable tax planning and unacceptable tax avoidance.
In that sense, he was correct in what he wrote.
Since that time Ian has worked very closely and successfully with Dave Hartnett to bring tax as an issue to be discussed in the Boardrooms of major companies, making responsible tax policy a Board-level subject for debate and oversight. Edward Troup’s comments were also made in an old article.
The debate about the morality of tax avoidance is a live issue today, and I would prefer to regard paying all due taxes on time in terms of a noble purpose, rather than in terms of morality.
I think morality is an issue for theologians and politicians, rather than for civil servants.
The reason both Ian and Edward have been appointed to their new positions is because of the vast experience they bring in both tax and business, and this will be invaluable to HMRC."
Paying all taxes is a "noble purpose"!
I would agree with her that the issue of "morality" is not for the civil service, but is instead an issue for theologians. However, I would most certainly not agree with her that morality is an issue for politicians.
I refer Homer to my article in June, in which I said:
"A politician lecturing us on morality is as natural as a cat walking on its hind legs."May I make a suggestion that at future hot seat Q&A sessions, if appropriate, loyal readers from HMRC start quoting from this site and/or suggesting that Excom start to read this site (just to see what the reaction is).
You never know, they may learn something!
Tax does have to be taxing.
Professional Cover Against the Threat of Costly TAX and VAT Investigations
What is TAXWISE?
TAXWISE is a tax-fee protection service that will pay up to £75,000 towards your accountant's fees in the event of an HM Revenue & Customs full enquiry or dispute.
To find out more, please use this link Taxwise
Tax Investigation for Dummies, by Nick Morgan, provides a good and easy to read guide for anyone caught up in an HMRC tax investigation. A must read for any Self Assessment taxpayer.
Click the link to read about: Tax Investigation for Dummies
HMRC Is Shite (www.hmrcisshite.com), also available via the domain www.hmrconline.com, is brought to you by www.kenfrost.com "The Living Brand"