I have a particularly buzzy bee in my bonnet about tax evasion. I know that many people disagree with me, but it’s my blog so here goes. I think it is an evil crime – not least because it is so very selfish. The main purpose of tax is to provide the funding for society, and in most reputable democracies this works fairly well (give or take a duck island or two). I am perfectly happy to pay my taxes because I want to use the general facilities of society – and moreover I am content to subsidise others who are genuinely less able to contribute. I have been given a good brain and a fine education, and it is only right that I should contribute at a higher level. So hearing that some squillionaire has managed to arrange his affairs so that he pays 8p in tax does rather irritate me.
My irritation is compounded by the laissez-faire attitude taken by so many people to tax evasion. For a start, can’t they see that if someone else evades tax, we are the ones who will have to take up the slack? And this acceptance can sometimes even tip over into encouragement – particularly on the part of certain financial institutions. I like to go on holiday to Switzerland, and many years ago I opened a Swiss bank account to fund my chocolate-buying binges. I have on average £500 in there, which earns precisely zero interest, and so the recent announcement that the Swiss government is going to hand over my details to HMRC causes me no concern. However, my bank does not know this and so has sent me – and presumably all of its UK-resident clients – a letter explaining the implications and our options.
Astonishingly, there is a whole section headed “Protection from criminal investigation”. And under this heading is this suggestion: “Clients who are concerned about the risk of investigation by the HMRC and wish to gain immediate protection against potential criminal prosecution should opt for the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility now.” In other words, move your undeclared, untaxed (and therefore criminal) money to Liechtenstein pronto so that you can continue to hide behind the LDF. In other words, take immediate evasive action – all puns intended. I imagine that this sort of advice is usually given in private meetings, after the place has been swept for bugging devices, but in a general letter to all clients? I’m just sore because no-one in Vaduz would get out of bed for my chocolate-smeared £500.
(And as if by magic, on the very day I posted this blog post, this article appeared on the BBC website: “Tax havens: is the tide turning?”)