Blog description.

Accentuating the Liberal in Classical Liberal: Advocating Ascendency of the Individual & a Politick & Literature to Fight the Rise & Rise of the Tax Surveillance State. 'Illigitum non carborundum'.

Liberty and freedom are two proud words that have been executed from the political lexicon: they were frog marched and stood before a wall of blank minds, then forcibly blindfolded, and shot, with the whimpering staccato of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ resounding over and over. And not only did this atrocity go unreported by journalists in the mainstream media, they were in the firing squad.

The premise of this blog is simple: the Soviets thought they had equality, and welfare from cradle to grave, until the illusory free lunch of redistribution took its inevitable course, and cost them everything they had. First to go was their privacy, after that their freedom, then on being ground down to an equality of poverty only, for many of them their lives as they tried to escape a life behind the Iron Curtain. In the state-enforced common good, was found only slavery to the prison of each other's mind; instead of the caring state, they had imposed the surveillance state to keep them in line. So why are we accumulating a national debt to build the slave state again in the West? Where is the contrarian, uncomfortable literature to put the state experiment finally to rest?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tax Avoidance and the Morality of Certainty: New Zealand and the UK.

On the back of the GFC, the depth of which was partially caused by over-spending state sectors – Greek Rail had more employees than passengers – their imprudent spending justified by the stimulunacy of Keynesian Big State socialism, the IR’s have had to be unleashed by white-eyed politicians, and have made huge in-roads throughout the West in garnering power for themselves, particularly in the scoping and manner tax avoidance is now policed. New Zealand’s general anti-avoidance provision is section BG 1. My next tax post shows how the Department is using BG 1 to broaden the tax base in a manner that creates uncertainty, not certainty – crucial concepts – in order they always be at the advantage of the law. The result of this is a slow, cynical destruction of the rule of law in New Zealand, which cannot exist in the absence of certainty caused by a Department that is being allowed to act arbitrarily and retrospectively. Whether you believe the coercive act of taxing is moral or not, every individual in New Zealand should be alarmed in all cases where a government holds itself above the rule of law, and its departments are not held to the same processes as citizens. I will be developing all those themes fully in my coming post, however, for now it is interesting to observe the exact same process in the UK.

Mike Flemming, Tax Director of UK firm Straughans, in his article The Morality of Tax, makes some astute observations our legislators should be mindful of. The entire article is worth reading, however, pertaining to my own themes, I include below relevant extracts:

David Cameron’s condemnation of Jimmy Carr’s tax arrangements as 'morally wrong' made headlines. Carr’s public apology, after withdrawing from the avoidance scheme in question, added to the moral overtone.
The moral compass was sent swinging out of control once more as David Gauke’s comments about the 'immorality' of paying tradespeople in cash hit the media. As a tax professional I am ever cautious about casting knee-jerk moral judgements on tax arrangements and was especially surprised to hear such comments coming from Mr Gauke. As former Director of Ivobank, which specialised in financing the notoriously cash-rich betting industry (reliant on the arrangement that the proceeds of gambling do not incur a tax liability) I did think that Gauke might have removed the plank from his own eye before he started commenting on specks in the eyes of others.

Never has the relationship between an individual’s tax code and moral code been more widely conflated. Moral pronouncements of 'right and wrong' sit uneasily within an objective system. Clearly we should all pay a correct share of tax but this needs to be achieved through the introduction of watertight legislation, rather than politicians attempting to take the moral high ground, a position that in my view they are ill suited too.
The government does have plans to combat tax avoidance through the introduction of a General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR). Unfortunately, the very generality of the rule means that it’s more of a blunderbuss than a sniper’s rifle. The government requires tax avoidance legislation that will operate with the precision of a surgical scalpel, allowing them to excise tax avoidance schemes which are aggressively abusive, without compromising businesses and individuals engaged in legitimate strategic tax planning.

Sadly, a GAAR could actually be more detrimental to smaller businesses and sole traders than to the 'big fish' it was 'designed' to catch. The application of the GAAR hinges around one word – 'reasonable' – and a judge’s perception of what it constitutes. So, common business tax planning behaviour which has been endorsed – and even encouraged – for generations could suddenly be held up under the microscope with uncertain and unexpected results.  

The 'catch all' premise of the GAAR sets it up to create casualties where the government should be building areas of strength – in SMEs and family business. HMRC has declined even to provide a clearance process - whereby conscientious individuals could submit their tax arrangements to the Revenue for approval – so increasing the likelihood that unsuspecting members of the public will be hit.

To come back to morality, if anything’s immoral it’s the government’s presentation of the GAAR as something which will promote fairness and equality. In fact it is likely to favour those who can afford to engage in lengthy law suits hinging on the definition of what is 'reasonable'. It’s no coincidence that the GAAR draft legislation follows the suggestions of a committee chaired by a lawyer. One wonders who will be involved in arguing the meaning of the word 'reasonable'. At the very least, we deserve certainty when dealing with the state in terms of tax. The government plans to introduce a scheme which will undermine this. Where’s the morality or common sense in that?

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