It was Leeds’s very own Denis Healey who once said “the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall”.
This is very true as tax avoidance is legal and regarded by some as “clever”, whilst tax evasion is illegal.
The important legal difference has been highlighted this week by the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s responses to the K2 scheme used by comedian Jimmy Carr – who is no longer involved in it and has apologised for using it – and another 1,100 tax avoiders. Essentially, UK earners “quit” their jobs, to be hired by offshore shell companies that pay most of their salary in “loans” which because they can be recalled, does not attract tax.
I think it is very noble of the Prime Minister and Chancellor to describe these schemes as “morally wrong” and “morally repugnant”. However, as long as they are not illegal, people who can afford to pay “clever” accountants will continue to avoid contributing to the financing of our schools, hospitals and police services.
When I think about the role of MPs, I think about representing our views and making laws to enforce them. I would like our government to make fewer empty statements and actually put it into law that these schemes are wrong. We all have to remember that it is the most vulnerable people in society that rely on our public services and they are the people being hurt by these schemes.
Scott Nicholson, Leeds