HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Negative Spin

Negative SpinI have stated a number of times on this site my concern over the "subtle" negative spin being propagated by Hartnett, Brown and certain elements within HMRC over tax avoidance.

They would have us believe that tax avoidance is wrong, and bordering on being illegal. Hartnett et al are cunning in their campaign, they seek to highlight the multi million pound "aggressive" (their word) tax avoidance schemes practised by large companies and very wealthy individuals.

They know that this drip drip drip of negative publicity, because it only relates to the super wealthy and multi nationals, has the desired effect of persuading the ordinary taxpayer that tax avoidance is the tool of the rich and (human nature being what it is) should be aggressively resisted.

Now here is the problem:

1 Tax avoidance (legitimately reducing your taxable income) is legal, it is tax evasion (hiding taxable income) that is illegal.

2 We all practice tax avoidance by the very fact that we use personal allowances, isa's, tax credits etc.

Why then would Hartnett et al seek to create the false impression of illegality wrt avoidance?

Three reasons:

1 Brown is running out of money, he desperately needs to increase the tax take; cutting back on people's legal right to reduce tax, by making it more difficult for them to avoid tax and by slandering them, is an easy option.

2 HMRC et al are softening the rest of us up for reductions in tax allowances (personal allowances are already not in fact raised in line with inflation).

3 HMRC and Brown are softening us up for legislation that will make avoidance illegal.

Indeed, so effective has this drip drip drip of negative publicity been that even Tesco and The Guardian have been suckered into a fight over it.

Tesco is suing The Guardian over claims the paper made about its tax planning.

Tesco claims that the Guardian wrongly alleged that Tesco had set up a tax avoidance structure offshore to avoid paying up to £1BN in corporation tax, and that the supermarket had already avoided £500m in corporation tax using the structure.

It claims it has saved only £23M in stamp duty from the scheme, and could avoid a further £30M-£40M from the structure, again in stamp duty.

The paper said the claims were an attempt to "chill public debate" on tax avoidance issues.

The Guardian are quoted in Accountancy Age:

"We have never claimed Tesco behaved illegally. These are matters of considerable political importance at present, debated by all parties."

So we have here two large organisations, one legally using legitimate tax avoidance techniques the other reporting on those techniques and stating that they are not illegal.

Had Hartnett et al not been feeding the public misconceptions about tax avoidance there would be no story here and the Guardian would never have bothered to print it, and Tesco (had the Guardian printed this non story) would not be bothered about the Guardian printing it in the first place.

This is the direct consequence of the HMRC and government campaign to denigrate those that practice tax avoidance, and to imprgenate tax avoidance with the stench of disrepute.

As I have already said, all of us practice tax avoidance. Once HMRC, Hartnett and Brown have curtailed the legitimate activities of the large companies, they will come for the rest of us, who then will stand up for us?

"In Germany they came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
The they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up

Martin Niemoeller

To repeat:

Tax avoidance is legal, tax evasion is illegal.

HMRC want you to believe something else!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. I do agree however their point was obviously lost on Lord Sainsbury who cashed in to "avoid" paying more CGT than necessary

  2. I like your point, and the site, however the use of the Niemoller quote is somewhat egregious.

    Tax is taxing and you can go to prison for not paying it following due process. But we are not talking of a knock from the secret poice in the night and you're never heard of again, still less the concentration camps. We're not on that slippery slope and we won't recognise it if it comes again if everyone calls 'Nazi' at every disagreeable Government action.