A UK Cabinet minister has condemned people like Jimmy Carr who use tax avoidance loopholes as the “moral equivalent of benefit cheats”.
Hang on! This is rather like a Mafia Don lecturing someone who hasn’t paid his protection money on his moral failings to pay up! Benefit cheats are indeed committing a crime. But whatever we think is a fair amount of tax, following the tax law to the letter isn’t.
I’m not a Jimmy Carr fan. But is it entirely fair to hold him up as some satanic individual? He’s not broken any laws. He employed somebody to give him tax advice and taken it. Benefit cheats, though, are stealing money from the taxpayer. Carr is still a taxpayer – he’s just a taxpayer with a good accountant. It’s not Carr who’s wrong; it’s the complexity of the system that allows him to pay so little.
It’s well known that taxing people a reasonable percentage earns more for the taxman than over-taxing them. Remember the brain drain and requests for the last British businessman to turn off the lights as he emigrated? Well, it’s all coming back again with the regrowth of the black economy and tradesmen preferring to work for cash. Even some MPs felt a need to “adjust” their expenses – are they any better than benefit scroungers?
Keep taxes reasonable and people will pay them. Hit them for half or more of their earnings and the tax avoidance gurus will earn a fortune, leaving the country worse off. What is needed is a simple and fair system.
The other real question here is what do people get for their taxes? Eye-watering sums of taxpayers’ money have been frittered away on useless political projects, disastrous social engineering experiments and futile desert wars. Whilst there is a moral duty to pay taxes that are due, there’s also a moral imperative on governments that they don’t take more of a worker’s income than is strictly necessary. Successive governments have breached that imperative. Most people would agree, I’m sure, that much of their money has been simply wasted.
Carr is far too easy a target. Lots of “celebs” allegedly engage in tax avoidance. And if Jimmy Carr finds himself overtaxed, will he simply in future be known as “Jimmy Bicycle”?
Nora Johnson’s novels, Soul Stealer & The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/ eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca