Monday, 6 December 2010

Tax Avoidance - Legal, but utterly immoral.

Following the very high profile protests at Topshops Flagship store in London, organised by the group UKUncut, there has been much written on various blogs about the protest and the larger issue it deals with. With one or two exceptions, support for the action seems to come largely from those who sit on the left and/or liberal side of the political spectrum and those who disagree are almost exclusively known as being on the right.

What I genuinely don't understand is why this is a left or right issue. Tax avoidance of the kind Philip Green has undertaken is, to all intents and purposes, a criminal act. He has just managed to get away with it in the same way that money launderers get away with their crimes - by playing the law to their advantage. As if any other evidence was needed that HMRC have been completely hoodwinked, how many times have you ever heard of the Arcadia group being owned and managed by Tina Green? Was it Tina Green asked to help the government review working practices? Is Tina Green the name you generally associate with Topshop? No, of course not. So why are we expected to believe that Tina Green is the one who earns all the money from Arcadia? It is a con, pure and simple. There is no left or right angle to this. We, as a country have been denied the revenue that is rightfully ours.

Some will argue the position from a point of greater good. In other words, Philip Green has created thousands of jobs and paid millions in tax already. Well, at what point do you have to stop paying tax? If you have already paid £100m do you get a by ball for anything over that amount? It's a nonsense argument. Some will argue that aggressive reform of tax laws to prevent such avoidance will drive businesses like Arcadia away. Well, I don't buy that for a second. Britain is, and will remain one of the best places to grow a high street based brand. It is, and will remain a major economic player. It is, and will remain a place where businesses of all kinds can grow into international players. Closing loopholes in our tax laws will not change that.

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