Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Don't Do As I Do...

How delicious that a member of our world expert tax-raising government should have her personal financial affairs run by a world expert in tax avoidance. Gordo has been fighting artificial avoidance schemes ever since he's been Chancellor. As his Financial Secretary puts it:

"The Government are committed to creating a fairer tax system. Artificial and contrived tax avoidance schemes undermine fairness, at the expense of those who do not indulge in them."

An excellent chance then to reflect once again on all those other ‘don’t-do-as-I-do’ outrages we peasants are forced to swallow.

Right at the top, we have Mr and Mrs B. While Mr B runs the most authoritarian regime since the Tudors, Mrs B supplements the family income by defending its victims. Plus, writing £145 books about how to sue the government for compensation.

Then there’s Mr B’s deputy. He told us to switch from our cars to public transport, while himself running two Jags just to ferry the wife down to the chippie. More recently he’s been put in charge of the government’s anti-obesity campaign. Pass the salt and vinegar.

And let’s not forget all those prize humbugs who tell us we can’t have selective schools, and then trek for miles every day in their planet stuffing 4x4s to make sure their own genes do benefit from selective education. That particular role of shame includes Mr B and Ms Harman, while the People’s Diane Abbott and Tonyscrony Falconer went the whole hog and paid to escape their failing state system altogether.

We don’t need to go on.

But both we and Sir Gus do need to understand the vital distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Because whereas the former is deemed perfectly OK- irrespective of how tortured the offshore accounting artifice may be- the latter is really really bad, and would warrant a lengthy spell in the Scrubs for all concerned.

My Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines evasion as “escaping from, avoiding”. Whereas avoidance is merely “keeping away or refraining from; escaping from”.

So that’s all perfectly clear. Not.

Well, what about the definition of evasion preferred by one of Tessa Jowell's own ministers:

"Action taken to reduce or defer tax liabilities in a way that Parliament plainly did not intend or could not possibly have intended had the matter been put to it".

Hmm. Could be a tricky one.

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