Swiss bank accounts? HSBC? Tax Evasion Bad!

Swiss bank accounts? HSBC? Tax Evasion Bad!

I do always encourage feedback from you, the readers of my blog. Whilst there is no facility for comment on the actual page please feel free to email me with your views and let me know if you would like me to address any particular subjects in the future.

One email I received last week invited me to share any views I have of recent press reports about HSBC, Swiss banks, tax evasion and tax avoidance all of which are hot topics at the moment.

My political position, if I have one, is that I believe in democracy and capitalism. I think that Churchill said that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. If you have a real Democracy, you will have Capitalism. People want to own things and to be free to sell their labour and spend their money as they see fit.

One consequence of capitalism is that some people get rich. Over all, people prefer to be rich. If people are getting rich then they are earning, and earnings can be taxed. Tax pays for hospitals and roads and other expensive and necessary good things.

The problem, if there is a problem, is that no one much wants to pay tax and in Britain particularly we tend not to enjoy it very much if other people are richer than we are.

As to paying tax:- we have a tax system in England and because England is a Democracy therefore we presumably have the tax system we deserve or at least the one we voted for. So whether or not we like them, there are rules. The rules dictate when tax must be paid. If tax does not need to be paid then tax is avoided. If tax is due and is not paid then tax is evaded. The two words are not the same. Tax avoidance is legal and is what all of us do quite properly. Tax evasion is what criminals do.

It used to be understood, very simply, that if a person arranged their monetary affairs so that within the rules no tax became payable that is tax avoidance and quite right too. Some, [all?], of the tax rules are very complicated so Accountants specialise in helping you understand the tax rules and helping you to avoid tax.

On the other hand if a Bank or an Accountant were illegally helping you to hide money to evade Tax then that is a criminal offence of assisting in tax evasion. So the understanding I grew up with is, Tax Avoidance Good, Tax Evasion Bad.

Nowadays it all seems to be much more complicated. In my opinion the problem results from a combination of human jealousy and tax law complexity.

The Press I suspect is worried that few and fewer people are buying Newspapers. It perhaps has a vested interest in stirring up a lot of ill feeling to sell papers and in recent times has appeared to take delight in publishing the names of high profile pop stars and comedians who have avoided tax – sometimes a lot of tax – with highly complicated arrangements. Avoided, note. The thing we all do if we own an ISA or indeed, as one cartoon going the rounds has it, as we all do if we simply don’t work.

The other recent thread is the successful Corporations – Starbucks – Amazon, – which are said to have implemented “Artificial” schemes to avoid enormous taxes. Interesting word “Artificial” in that context given that the Tax system itself is entirely artificial. The point, in my opinion, is that tax is artificial and tax avoidance is equally artificial but not criminal.

The Press in my further opinion is [wilfully or actually?] illiterate and rarely uses the correct word when speaking either of Tax Avoidance or of Tax Evasion and usually fails to observe the difference. Assuming that the people who read their words are ignorant, jealous and poor, Journalists are probably pretending to feel outrage on behalf of a readership for whom they more likely feel scorn.

My view is that if politicians are careless enough to leave big holes in tax law, we owe it to ourselves to drive a coach and horses through the gap. Do you think I am wrong?

Anyway, Comedians and Pop-stars and Coffee Shops chains rely on public approval. They need to be liked, so that people will continue to buy tickets and coffee. So we have been witnessing the spectacle of public apologies and sack-cloth and ashes, in order to get back ”On Side” with the people who read the Newspapers and all for what?

For arranging tax affairs entirely legally so as to limit the tax bill. Just as we all would except for a few Saints.

Where should this end?

Should I apologise for owning a few ISAs – should a lorry driver apologise for not working an available overtime shift thus reducing his potential income and thereby reducing his tax?

Is there a Moral to all this? Do I have any more cogent view as to Swiss banks and tax evasion – No, not really!

The tax system is what we voted for. We should all pay our tax. We should all unashamedly avoid tax to the full extent that the tax system that we voted for allows it. No one should evade tax. No Bank should make it their business to facilitate crime. And we should not be jealous of the Rich Man.

Moral panic might sell newspapers but seems to me to be unhealthy and to make Society meaner and nastier. In his recent blog the comedian Frankie Boyle has written “I do not read newspapers anymore – I just lie to myself and cut out the middle man”. In my opinion he is no fool.

I cannot assist you personally in minimising your tax obligations – I am not an Accountant.
However I am a very experienced Notary Public ready to provide my Notarial Services whenever I can assist you – Do please contact me. I am at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com and +44 (0)113 816 0116 and notary@atkinsonnotary.com or louise@atkinsonnotary.com

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