Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Towards the Promised Land

A parliamentary report confirms what Private Eye, the Guardian and UK Uncut supporters have long known to be true: that voluntary taxpaying isn't confined to Greece and Italy. Over here, the more you owe, the less you pay.

What's really shocking about the latest report is the simplicity of this particular scam. In Shaxson's Treasure Islands, the vast panoply of tax-evasion scams is laid bare: companies acquiring 'debts' to other companies in the same group but based offshore so that all the profits magically become losses, or every banana in the world being virtually shipped to one tiny tax-free island, and myriad other schemes.

But that's too complicated. Vodafone and Goldman Sachs found a much better system.
1. Refuse to pay your tax.
2. Make it very clear that you have more and better lawyers than the government.
3. Wine and dine officers of the Revenue and Customs service ('Don't cheat: eat'). They will soon be your friends. And eventually your employees.
4. Accept the head of HMRC's illegal offer of a tiny settlement with a handshake. (Vodafone owed £6bn and paid £1.25 bn). Don't worry about oversight: Dave Hartnett both shakes hands and is the authorising officer, very conveniently. And when that pesky parliament pokes its nose in, HMRC will insist on 'commercial confidentiality'.

Why break the law when you can own the government, whichever party's nominally in charge?

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