Poll: Huge majority against tax avoidance


9:20 am - February 13th 2011

by Newswire    


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A new poll by the Financial Times-Harris shows the publicly overwhelmingly against tax avoidance

It found that six out of 10 Britons thought it was wrong for UK businesses to “employ controversial but legal means of reducing their tax contribution at a time of economic uncertainty”.

Only 15% of respondents agreed it was acceptable to use legal tax avoidance techniques.

The poll also showed a big jump in the number of people opposed to the government’s austerity measures.

Half of people now think George Osborne’s spending cuts are likely to harm the economic recovery, compared with just 31% when the same question was last posed back in June, says the FT.

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Recently I found myself without a job, and am now effectively my disabled wife’s carer. As such my entitlement to things such as child tax credits has changed. I wasn’t automatically told this – I had to apply and fill in forms – which I guess you could call tax avoidance – I could have gone on without doing this. Frankly I’d have been stupid to do so – and I simply do not believe, that the “public” overwhelmingly disapprove of my tax avoidance.

OK I’m not a company – not a small one, and not a multi-national one – but if I owned shares in such a company (and even if I worked for one) – I’d prefer them to keep money in the kitty rather than giving it to the tax man. It seems like a no brainer even to a left winger like me.

What I think these figures really show is that many people still don’t understand the terminology of “tax avoidance”.

I mean seriously why would anyone get their pay packet, look at the deductions column – see that they’d taken too much off for tax, and say “Oh that’s OK – we’re all in this together – Keep it !” ?????

“Only 15% of respondents agreed it was acceptable to use legal tax avoidance techniques.”

Well if such techniques are legal then there’s sod-all that can be done about it!

You could try and outlaw some tax avoidance schemes (often easier said than done) but then it would no longer be tax avoidance but tax evasion instead.

It found that six out of 10 Britons thought it was wrong for UK businesses to “employ controversial but legal means of reducing their tax contribution at a time of economic uncertainty”.

Meanwhile, only two out of 10 Britons thought that it was wrong for UK businesses to “not voluntarily pay more tax in a recession”, while nine out of 10 Britons thought that it was wrong for UK businesses to “steal money from the government whether the economy was certain or not”.

That is to say: that question wording is sufficiently slanted towards achieving an “unacceptable” answer that the polling is meaningless for telling you anything about public opinion.

I think better polling would be to describe specific loopholes used by the big players and simply ask “right or wrong”. Throw in a few things that are actually illegal and a few things that are uncontroversially legal to act as controls. That would actually give useful information.

I am surprised that so many people seem to struggle with this principle. Just because something is legal (if only because, as #2 says, it’s easier said than done to outlaw it) does not make it ethical or pro-social. And the functioning of our society depends to a considerable extent on most people behaving more or less ethically and socially. The mentality of business, increasingly now, seems to me like the mentality of people who queue-barge or steal from honesty boxes: “Well, what do you expect?”

#1’s point also seems to me misconceived. Child tax credits are something our elected representatives have chosen to offer to everyone with children because that has seemed to them something that will promote the common good. You may have had to apply for your credits, but you didn’t have to employ a (very costly) accountant to sniff them out for you. If you were very well-off, your better nature might prompt you to forgo a benefit you don’t need, but as you (presumably) are not, I can’t imagine that many people, on the left or right, are going to criticise you for taking it. The behaviour of highly profitable companies and very wealthy individuals who employ accountants to find loopholes that our elected representatives would close if they could is a different matter entirely.

One last thing: voices opposed to #ukuncut are hammering the talking-point that the money that big business doesn’t pay in tax is not lost to the public anyway, as their inflated profits end up in our pension schemes and (if we’re lucky) in lower prices or higher wages. Well, yes – some of it does. But not all of it by any means. The gulf between the very rich and the very poor, both in Britain and internationally, has grown exponentially over the last few decades and is growing still. Is that because the rich are 10 times more intelligent, more industrious, more productive than they used to be, or the poor 10 times stupider, lazier and less productive? H’mmm, I wonder.

@4 Well, if the world operates on a “who you know, not what you know” basis then I imagine that yes, the Rich are 10 times more intelligent than the rest because they know all the right people…

At last an article not on taxresearch so Richard cant remove comments alternative to his views.

Accountants are the issue with tax avoidance. Lets get this out of the way early on. These corps targeted employ big accountancy firms to hep reduce their tax burden – and they get well rewarded for doing so.

These corps wouldnt know about the latest tax loopholes, let alone use them, without their accountants bringing them to their attention. So the real fight is with these accountancy firms and in fact ANY accountant doing any form of tax lessening.

Before the comments about lessening v avoidance get dragged up, lessening is still avoidance. If some were as angelic as they preach to others they should be, then they’d simply tot up what their clients owe HMRC and break the news to their clients. After all effectively that’s all their clients are asking and paying them to do.

But soon enough tax deductibles gets tabled, takes place, and straight away you’re avoiding tax. Agreed some do this on bigger scales than others. Some simply re-label columns/items. So that new laptop for a freelance journo/blogger will have straight away become a tax deductible purchase. You get the idea.

Thats before we get onto the issues of HMRC errors in collection, people with more than one job paying wrong tax code, cash-in-hand jobs/arrangements, tax credits or benefits-in-kind (pension, healthcare, company cars, lunch allowances, travel allowances, gym membership, subsidised lunch, childcare discounts/payments….) all of who have underpaid HMRC what they are owed.

As this is worth some 5 to 6x that claimed to have been avoided by these corps [over the last few years], why isnt this being addressed through protests as well?

Once we start selectively arguing points we become no better than the government cutting all our libraries, education, NHS, forrests who we all jointly have disgust for.

So if we really are to continue the tax avoidance line, rather than addressing the real issues with the cuts and their affects on us all, then why cant we start talking about ALL tax avoidance?

.

There are also ways to optimize the level of benefits paid which are quite legal, for example parents of a child could live in separate homes and each are paid HB and, overall, more income support. and still enjoy the same relationship as those who live in the same home.
This arrangement is often labelled as ‘benefits fraud’ by the right but it’s quite legal.

Re 6:

“Before the comments about lessening v avoidance get dragged up, lessening is still avoidance. If some were as angelic as they preach to others they should be, then they’d simply tot up what their clients owe HMRC and break the news to their clients.”

When you talk about some accountants telling others to be angelic, who exactly are you referring to? And as I currently understand it, there is a difference between, say, claiming expenses, and with moving your company’s income through a tax haven. One is morally legitimate, the other isn’t.

“As this is worth some 5 to 6x that claimed to have been avoided by these corps [over the last few years], why isnt this being addressed through protests as well?

Well go on then, why don’t you start protesting over it? My issue with people who bring up areas that aren’t currently being protested over is that most of the time it’s just an excuse not to do anything at all. “Well we’re not doing anything about this other tax avoidance so we shouldn’t do anything about this tax avoidance.”

@6 For someone with a blog that is ostensibly about “Discussing the UK’s coalition Government’s spending cuts and any alternatives”, all your posts seem to be about how UK Uncut are protesting against tax avoiders, and not a single one discussing the government’s spending cuts or possible alternatives.

Just throwing that observation out there.

@8

I refer to Mr Murphy.

As for protesting over other areas meaning nothing gets done you miss the point.

An argument has been raised about tax avoidance. So either we have a sensible discussion about ALL avoidance and find a middle ground, or we selectively choose those we wish to discuss – namely big corps.

As this is dwarfed by individuals avoiding or underpaying tax, why isnt this being made an issue as well? This also contributes to the cuts!

@9
Honest reply is, blog wasnt my idea. I dont give it as much love as I should and have so many half baked blogs sitting in the admin panel that have been better covered by others I follow on Twitter, or I’ve been distracted with work (aka hoping to help my employer weather the cuts) health issues & family so will likely simply get binned. So many are now out of date there is no point in posting them any longer. Tweeting is easier for me at the mo.

If you have something to contribute, and it fits with my idea of how the blog should work, I’m open to others that have the time posting their content there.

Now I’ve found the wordpress app, I might be able to draft my posts more often on my travels and finish/post at home in the eve.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  28. dennis borowski

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