Why is tax fraud treated so leniently?

Justin Thacker writes: A fundamental principle of biblical justice is that we are all equal before the law. The book of Leviticus reminds us: ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly’ (Lev 19:15). Yet a new report from TaxWatch reveals that such equality does not seem to apply to the way we pursue benefit fraud and tax fraud. While tax cheats cost the exchequer nine times as much as benefit cheats, you are 23 times more likely to be prosecuted for benefit fraud than tax fraud. This is surely unjust.

Both the Old and New Testaments are clear that partiality, especially partiality based on wealth and privilege, have no place in the kingdom of God. In particular, the scriptural authors were well aware of the perennial temptation we face to demonstrate such favouritism in our administration of justice. The following are just a selection of the verses that address this issue:

  • Deuteronomy 16:19 ‘Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.’
  • 2 Chronicles 19: 7 ‘Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.’
  • Proverbs 17: 15 ‘Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent – the Lord detests them both.’
  • Proverbs 17:23 ‘The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.’
  • Proverbs 31:9 ‘Speak up and judge fairly’
  • Isaiah 5: 22-23 ‘Woe to those…who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.’
  • Micah 3:9-11 ‘Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justiceand distort all that is right;…Her leaders judge for a bribe’
  • Zechariah 7:9-10 ‘Administer true justice.’
  • James 2:1 ‘My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism’
  • James 2:8-9 ‘If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers.’

The scriptures then are clear: biblical justice must involve the absence of favouritism or partiality. Moreover, there seems to be a number of reasons given for this. One of these centres on the representative role we play in administering justice. Ultimately, the only true judge is of course the supreme law-giver God. This means that when we apply judgements, and we are called to do that, we are doing so in God’s stead. True justice then is justice which faithfully represents the character of God. In 2 Chronicles 19 when Jehoshaphat appoints judges in every town he tells them they must judge righteously ‘because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the Lord who is with you whenever you give a verdict’ (v6).

The one who administers justice is then God’s servant and just as pagan rulers (Cyrus is the obvious example) can be God’s anointed, God’s servant whether they recognise God or not, so too are our secular Justices to the extent that they administer true justice. Jehoshaphat’s admonition to render true justice is based then on the character of the one that the Judges represent. Just as there is ‘no injustice or partiality or bribery’ with God so there must not be any ‘injustice or partiality or bribery’ with you who administer earthly justice. In this way, there is a sense in which there is only one concept of justice – God’s justice – and either our earthly judges administer that true justice or they deliver no justice at all.

Related to this, and the second reason given for why true justice matters, is that to administer injustice is to reject the law of God. Of course, when we think about it, it’s obvious that the law flows from God’s character and so to judge unfairly is both to deny the character of God and to reject the law. Both Isaiah and James make this explicit. In Isaiah 5, the prophet declares a series of woes on a range of sin, but in the mix is this: Woe to those ‘who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent’ (v23).

The first point to note here is that injustice can take at least two forms: both failing to prosecute those who should be prosecuted, and declaring guilty those who are innocent. It is the first of these that arguably is the case in the TaxWatch report. Indeed, following on from this report, TaxWatch have recently launched a new initiative to examine precisely how it’s possible that so many tax fraudsters do escape justice. In highlighting this, I am in no way suggesting that our judiciary accept bribes to let off tax fraudsters (though of course that is possible). Rather, I am suggesting that bribery might work in a much more circuitous route. If a political party benefits from wealthy donors, and if those wealthy donors are able to retain a greater proportion of their wealth through lax tax laws, and under-resourcing of HMRC, then it is in that party’s interests to maintain laws with loopholes, and to keep the investigating body so poorly resourced. Hence, in highlighting this, I need to make it clear that I am in no way criticising the hard work of HMRC staff who diligently chase up as many tax fraudsters as they can. My criticism here is levelled at a succession of governments from both parties for their chronic failure to adequately resource HMRC, especially in respect of its compliance work which has seen a reduction of 800 staff over the last 4 years. This kind of mechanism which facilitates tax abuse is not direct bribery of judges as is envisaged in Isaiah, but it is certainly using financial leverage for advantage, and it remains wrong.

The Letter of James makes substantially the same point. The scenario envisaged is one where the wealthy patron enters your church and you treat them very differently to the poor person who is also present. In indicating why such favouritism is wrong, James says this:

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it’ (James 2.8-10).

What is interesting here is not just the point that favouritism is to break the law of God, but also the contrast with the great command ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. James is making the point that to demonstrate favouritism—and in this scenario, it is merely concerned with levels of attention and where people sit—is to fail to love your neighbour. Why is this the case?

Well, part of the reason no doubt links to the fact that our neighbour has been created in the image of God, and to fail to show them the respect and dignity they deserve is to fail to recognise them as created in God’s image. Proverbs 14:31 reminds us that oppression of the poor is to show ‘contempt for their maker’ and there are in fact two counter-cultural realties expressed in this fact that we are all created in God’s image. On the one hand, the fact that everyone is created in God’s image (however marred that image subsequently is) means that we are all of equal worth and dignity in God’s sight. The second is that because everyone is created we are all under God’s authority and judgement. When we show partiality in law, we deny both of these realities. On the one hand we are treating people as if they are not equal – as if there is some significant, judgement-bearing difference between them. On the other hand, we are also setting ourselves up as some kind of authority in the place of God. We are claiming that we are able to determine someone’s value as opposed to the equal judgement that God has made. As such, partiality in law is simply an example of that age old sin – idolatry – in this case, a form of self-idolatry where we assume the place of God in judgement.

The final reason provided in Scripture against partiality in justice again links to these earlier points. It is the fact that just judgement can be a mechanism through which the poor, the disadvantaged are protected against the injustices of this world. There are accidents of history, there are evil people – all of which can serve to impoverish and alienate the widows, the orphans and the strangers. True justice can act as a bulwark against these injustices and ensure that those who are marginalised in this way are not exploited through their lack of bargaining power. Hence, to administer injustice, to show favouritism and partiality is to fail to defend the poor. Proverbs 31 makes this clear: ‘

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Prov 31.8–9).

Similarly, Zechariah says:

Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’ (Zech 7.9–10).

In both these cases, an explicit link is being drawn between the administration of true justice and defence of the marginalised. The reality is that those who are limited in economic and social power are frequently victims of those with such power and true justice can protect them from it. In regard to this it is worth noting that tax abuse is not a victimless crime. The global south, in particular, loses out approximately $200bn every single year in tax that they are owed but is not paid. That money could be used to fund healthcare, education or other essential services. It is more than is given in aid each year to that region. Tax abuse kills people in the global south, and impoverishes our public services in the global north. It is not a victimless crime.

Yet the injustice and favouritism that the scriptures rail against seems to be happening in the way we treat benefit and tax fraud respectively. As the TaxWatch report shows there is not a level playing field in the way these two crimes are treated. They point out how:

  • There were 23 times more prosecutions for benefit related offences than tax related offences;
  • The government employs 3.5 times more staff to tackle benefit fraud than tax fraud;
  • You are 8.5 times more likely to receive a custodial sentence for benefit crime than for tax crime;
  • Yet, tax fraud costs us 9 as much as benefit fraud each year (£20bn per year v £2.2bn per year).

They conclude:

Someone committing benefits fraud is more likely to face criminal prosecution and go to jail than someone engaged in tax fraud, this raises serious questions about whether the rule of law is being applied fairly across society.

The question remains of course why is this the case? Why is it that we treat tax crime so differently to benefit crime? In answer to that, I am unavoidably drawn to the question of who benefits from the relatively light touch given to tax fraud, and to the issue of party funding. As such, I wonder if Micah’s advice remains as pertinent as ever.

Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right;…Her leaders judge for a bribe. (Micah 3:11)

Here are four things you can do now in response:

1. Join the Fair Tax Now campaign and write to your MP about a fairer tax system

2. Sign up to the CATJ newsletters

3. Share this post with others

4. Read the Taxwatch report for more detail

Dr Justin Thacker is the national coordinator of Church Action for Tax Justice. He was formerly the academic dean and lecturer in public theology at Cliff College and continues to lecture on a freelance part-time basis at a number of theological colleges. His most recent book is Global Poverty: A Theological Guide (SCM Press)

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41 thoughts on “Why is tax fraud treated so leniently?”

  1. There is also the question of people who are benefit “cheats” in only the loosest sense. There are people who are looking for work while claiming benefits, but perhaps not looking very hard. There are also people who claim benefits because they have a genuine disability but one which may not prevent them from working if they pushed themselves. These people tend to have very limited prospects. They are often poorly educated and could only hope to do the most menial work. And yet such people are often hounded by officials. I think this is another aspect of a system with questionable priorities.

    • (I am a different David to David Madison!)

      This is true. And a related factor is the gap between rich and poor, which has widened in recent years, partly because of the huge increase in property prices. The prospects for those who have been left behind in the career race (often through no fault of their own) are bleaker than ever.

  2. Great article. I think the dreadful concept of social status plays a big part here. Benefits claimants tend to be working class, who are looked down on by the intelligensia who hold the positions of power in the establishment. I suspect the latter take the view that peasants who break the law must be dealt with severely. Whereas tax fraud is more of a white-collar crime, committed by educated professionals (I’m thinking of something more than tradesmen being paid in cash). I’d say the underlying mechanism is the same as racism and sexism – people see those who are different as inferior and discriminate against them. I also think the whole structure of taxation in the UK is strongly biased in favour of big business and the rich, but that’s another story.

  3. Setting aside any politics for now, there are three main factors from a criminal law aspect, I’d suggest.
    1 It is easier, easier to prove
    2 There is no equal access to the law, more particularly, lawyers
    3 Dishonesty in society has been largely downgraded and honesty seen as a mugs game -it doesn’t pay. (There is covetness all round, in every aspect of society.)

      • Not sure about worrying, Ian, but as a former legal aid lawyer, access to the law, I’d say, is a key part of the rule of law. But it is also political and philosophical: how much does society value it, and are willing to pay. Thankfully, most people live their lives without an encounter with the law, the courts, lawyers even as society itself becomes more contentious and litigious.
        Fraud, tax evasion, can be fraught with distinctions made with lawful avoidance; evidential difficulties and jury’s ability to understand complexity in lengthy trials with attendant huge cost. Pragmatism can play a part with a cost- benefit analysis.
        But downgrading dishonesty and avarice and covetousness, may not only be *out there* but *within* even if it does not extend to criminal acts. It is huge.
        As for political engagement, perhaps input from a former, Labour appointed, Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer ought to be sought, though I have little doubt that what he’d say now as Labour leader, would differ significantly from when he was in post, when decisions would be taken not to prosecute based on *public interest/policy.*

  4. Ian

    Can I ask you a question totally unrelated to the post. You say either in a blog post or your Revelation commentary that the word ‘say’ also means ‘sing’. (legontes). Why do most translations use ‘say’ for the praise of heavenly beings.? I am not doubting or challenging I am keen to be sure about this.


    • Yes, quite unrelated!

      It is not true that they also say this. I am looking at Rev 5.9, which in Greek is: καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες
      ‘singing a new song, [saying].’ The first verb and noun are cognates, which which we get our word ‘ode’.

      Many translations offer: ‘they sang a new song, saying’ which reflects the different verbs adousin and legontes, (and French and German versions do this too) but you could read legontes as just introducing the words, so the NET, CEV simply omits it, giving ‘They were singing a new song:’.

      What is clear is that they *are* singing, and the word legontes introduces a song rather than just speech.

      Hope that helps.

      • Hi Ian

        Thanks for responding. I appreciate you’re a busy man. In my background we were taught that only the redeemed sang while angels ‘say’.

        • I don’t think there is any textual basis to believe that. It is true that it is the 24 elders in Rev 5.9 who ‘sing a new song saying’, not the angels, but legontes is consistently used to introduce all the hymnic material, sometimes in conjunction with the language of ‘ode’ (song) and sometimes without.

          I can see why it is only the *redeemed* who ‘sing a new song’, since they have experienced the mercy of God which the angels have not. But legontes is used to introduce what they sing.

          • Keeping in theme with ‘ unrelated posts’ I am enjoying your references in your Tyndale commentary to the number of uses of a word. Occasionally I find what seem to me to be be anomalies. Since I’m not using a Greek text the various translations may account for this. I tend to check with Darby’s translation and perhaps Young’s literal translation since both are at the literal end of the spectrum.

            I noticed that ‘they that dwell upon the earth’ appears 12 times in Darby translation (though only 11 in YLT… 12+ in Revised Version).

            An uncomfortable question. Do you want me to alert you on these kind of issues or simply leave it.

          • I have checked my numbers and I think they are right. I don’t know of an ET that is so literal that you can relay on it for any of these. The best thing if you don’t have Greek would be to check using an interlinear Bible. Or you could use an electronic text with Strong’s numbering which will give you the Greek words.

            The phrase ‘inhabitants of the earth’ κατοικοῦντας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς occurs in 3.10, 6.10, 8.13, 11.10 (twice), 13.8, 13.14 (twice), 17.2, and 17.8 making ten occurrences. The grammatically different phrase ‘the earth and those who dwell on it’ τὴν γῆν καὶ τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ κατοικοῦντας occurs in 13.12; I infer that John’s use of a different grammatical phrase confirms the fact that he wanted to ensure that the first phrase occurred exactly ten times, no more and no less.

          • It is never a hassle to talk about Revelation! But I gave the full list so you could check against yours.

            I suspect that your versions are using the same English phrase to translate different Greek phrases, especially at 13.12.

  5. The article glosses over the “equal” treatment of tax policy. If a government taxes a particular group more than another group then it is not treating that other group fairly. When a government, or people, treat another group as more responsible for the ills of society and, thus, creates tax or class envy, then that group is not being treated fairly.
    The law is a two-edged sword and should be used in such a manner that it treats ALL equally in whatever policy is promulgated. Neither group should be treated differently in all areas of life.

    • It depends on how you define ‘equal’. If for example everyone, regardless of your level of income, paid 20% tax that would be ‘equal’. But someone earning £15,000 a year would find it difficult to lose 1/5 of their income compared to someone else on £150,000 a year. The former would struggle to live, the latter could live very well.


        • Equality is not the same as equity

          Could you explain the difference? By ‘equity’ do you mean matters dealt with by the courts of equity (in which case I’m not sure how it relates to ‘equality’?), or something else?

          • Equality is treating people the same. Equity is ensuring that people receive the same service by treating people differently. The classic example is wheelchair access. One could argue that it is equal treatment to provide everyone with a staircare, but it is equitable treatment to provide a ramp and disabled loos etc.

          • Equality is treating people the same. Equity is ensuring that people receive the same service by treating people differently. The classic example is wheelchair access. One could argue that it is equal treatment to provide everyone with a staircare, but it is equitable treatment to provide a ramp and disabled loos etc.

            But that’s not treating people differently. Both wheelchair users and walkers can use a ramp. You are treating people equally in that case, providing everyone with a ramp they can use if they wish.

            So I still don’t understand what the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ is supposed to be. Can you give an example (unlike the ramp example, which is equal) of something which is ‘equitable’ but not ‘equal’? Because the ramp example just makes it sound like ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ are the same.

            Also could you clarify what is meant by ‘receive the same service’. That sounds like you mean equality of access to services? So is this ‘equity’ then about what used to be called equality of opportunity (ie ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities) rather than equality of outcome (ie making sure everybody ends up the same)? Or something else?

          • There is a meme circulating of individuals of different height trying to look over a fence to see a baseball game.

            I’ve seen that. It always occurs to me that they should buy tickets.

            There is n interesting reconstruction of this meme here with a variety of illustrations

            Okay, but still that doesn’t really give a definition of ‘equality’ or a clear explanation of how it differs from ‘equality’.

            The nearest I can glean from it is that ‘equity is using an unequal distribution of resources in order to make up for past unequal distributions of resources’. Is that the definition you’re using?

            In which case I don’t see how that applies to, say, tax rates. Unless you’re suggesting that people from areas that have historically had less investment should pay lower taxes rates? But I don’t think anyone was suggesting that? Maybe you could explain?

          • I think that commentary on the graphic is deeply problematic.

            As Justin points out here there are clearly elements of the system which are unjust, and need to be addressed.

            But commentator you cite claims that *all* problems stem from problems with the system, and never problems with people or their values and culture.

            If the author were right, then we would see *all* minority ethnic groups suffering disadvantage—but of course we do not.

            I think Justin is right here that there is a major issue to be addressed here. But there are other issues too; you only have to tune into one episode of Eat Well For Less to learn that many people in our society have not the slightest idea how to manage their finances or structure their lives at even the most basic level, and that also is a problem.

          • I ask because if you’re going to demand something, like ‘equity’, then you need to have a concrete definition of what you want and how we can tell whether we’re moving towards or away from it, and how we can tell when it’s been achieved. It can’t just be an ‘I can’t define it but I know when I see it’ kind of a thing.

            Otherwise you might as well just say you’re fighting for something vague like ‘niceness’. It might sound lovely and fluffy but it’s not actually practically implementable, is it?

            Fight for niceness! Niceness now!

      • Indeed…. As in income rises often being presented as mere %. Getting 1% more means utterly different things for people across the wage/pension spectrum.

  6. ‘They point out how:

    There were 23 times more prosecutions for benefit related offences than tax related offences;
    The government employs 3.5 times more staff to tackle benefit fraud than tax fraud;’

    Whilst I agree with the general thrust of this article, I think the above 2 points could be explained by simply the number of cases of benefit fraud compared to those of tax fraud? The tax fraud may amount to more financially but fewer individual cases. I dont know, but that may be the reason.

    i also wonder if one of the reasons for the apparent lower number of tax fraud prosecutions is simply because determining actual tax fraud is more difficult than more straight forward benefit fraud, due to the seemingly highly complicated tax laws, which have numerous legal loopholes? Hence the lucrative world of accountants and tax experts.

    So Im not sure it’s about going after the ‘weak’ poor whilst turning a blind eye to the ‘rich’. But yes society seems to be very unfair.

    Just my thoughts.


    • Even if there is some truth in what you’re saying, it still doesn’t explain the relative lack of resources devoted to tax fraud compared to benefit fraud. The tax cases may be trickier, but if anything that means more money / staff should be devoted to pursuing them, not less.

    • Also, people who have committed tax fraud are more likely to have the means to repay what they owe before it becomes a prosecutable offence.

  7. Fair, unfair. Is there any objectivity in the use of the terms and do they equate with equality, inequality?
    Something might be unfair/fair according to the law: it may be unequal, but fair: it may be proportionate but unequal, and so on. All or any of this may be for or against the “common good” which may or may not encompass factors beyond, but bearing weight on the financial, the material world.
    As the author of the article shows for the Christian it extends to the beneficence, corporately and individually, of the neighbour principle and golden rule, tempered by and held in tension with corporate and personal responsibility.

  8. I am not sure if this true but in the US, it seems to me they treat tax fraud more seriously than we do (and benefit fraud less), with much stiffer penalties.

    Do Americans have a different attitude to it than we do? And if so, why?

  9. Justin,

    Earlier in the comments you say that “Even if there is some truth in what you’re saying, it still doesn’t explain the relative lack of resources devoted to tax fraud compared to benefit fraud.”, but nothing in your post suggests that there is a lack of resource being used. You might point to the ‘3.5 times staff’ figure, but are you comparing like to like? Are you aggregating the part-time with the full-time, the call center employee with the chartered account? Why do we learn the amount of tax/benefit-fraud cost, and the numbers of tax/benefit-fraud employees?

    You list many Bible verses, and they are all true. But you neglect others that are equally true, such as “Weights and weights, measures and measures are an abomination to the Lord”. You cast aspersions based on the cost of tax fraud and the numbers of employees, but what is to stop somebody making the opposite point by pointing to the costs of the tax employees and the number of tax avoidance cases? Only the love of God to whom such diverse weights and measures are an abomination.

    There’s a famous phrase: “If the facts and the law are on you side, then bang on the facts. If you just have the law, then bang on the law. If neither then bang on the table.” You’re banging on the law. But if you are accusing our politicians of being corrupt, then shouldn’t you have the facts to back that up, rather than cherry-picked figures?

    You say “unavoidably drawn to the question […]” , did you try? For if you are reborn by the blood of Jesus then it is not unavoidable. You could have gotten facts that compared like for like rather than using cherry-picked numbers, you could have asked decent, moral subject-matter experts (not campaigners), you could have done numerous things before resorting to paranoid innuendo and to instead “Speak up and judge fairly”.

    I ask the following question genuinely: How much effort did you put in trying to understand the government’s explanations before deciding that our governments are corrupt – presumably including every cabinet member of the last twenty years, since none have whistleblown on the subject – voluntarily lowering the tax-intake available for them to spend in order to keep the donations coming in from tax fraudsters?

  10. The argument of this article is fallacious. The harsh treatment of benefit fraud is not an argument for amending the treatment of tax offenders, rather it is an argument for treating the weakest members of society with a little humanity. something which the tories seem incapable of. The article hints that the reason for this alleged imbalance is corruption related to the funding of political parties but offers no evidence for this.

    • Why does it have to be ‘either/or’? Surely it should be ‘both/and’?

      Given that those who benefit from lax inspection of their taxes are often business connected with and supporting the Government (as per the news the last couple of days) are you really suggesting that there is no influence brought to bear by those businesses on Government policy?

      • Lobbying and the work of pressure groups has been around for yonks.
        The recent brouhaha relates to questions of how and cronyism. Short memories abound if we can’t recall the expression, Tony’s Cronies.
        When I first was employed in the NHS, part of the induction and management training was to emphasise integrity such as in the area of contracts, supplies tendering and key was this ethic; you were not to make a private profit from public office.
        That seems to be so last century.
        While economics is not something I’ve studied, we sometimes seem int the UK to have some aversion to the concept of wealth creation, for the overall benefit of the UK and its residents. Of course there are global considerations at play as well such as tax incentives, workforce, but we also need to to compare western democratic capitalism with the capitalist drive and methods of the CCP.

      • Given that those who benefit from lax inspection of their taxes are often business connected with and supporting the Government (as per the news the last couple of days) are you really suggesting that there is no influence brought to bear by those businesses on Government policy?

        I think this is a little confused. ‘[L]ax inspection of their taxes’ suggests that the issue is rules not being properly applied. But ‘influence brought to bear by those businesses on Government policy’ suggests that the issue is such businesses having an input into the rules.

        I think it’s quite important to make the distinction clear, because the two are quite different things. The first — which could be interpreted as an accusation that tax officials are colluding with businesses or individuals to help them evade the rules by which everyone else has to play — it really quite shocking.

        Whereas the second is not really very shocking at all. Of course many interests are going to have influence on government policy; indeed a large part of the government’s job is to balance competing interests, which means it needs to hear from all sides.

        This only becomes a problem when it happens in secret so that policies are introduced without the opportunity for a proper debate*; but given the level of scrutiny given to tax rules, and the media and opposition circus dedicated to pulling apart the budget every year, it seems unlikely that any tax measures could escape proper scrutiny.

        And then there’s the specific Dyson revelations the last couple of days, which are really sui generis as we’ve never been in a national crisis of the type that was active last March before.

        * cf https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/revealed-the-secret-trans-rights-lobbying-operation-in-parliament

  11. Perhaps the difference is because of, let’s call it, a common mood in many people.

    People resent paying tax. “They are taking my money.” Therefore there is perhaps some (jealous) admiration for those who manage to evade tax. There is also the cash-in-hand economy.

    People look down on ‘benefit scroungers’. “Why don’t they go out and get a job rather than living off my hard-earned money?”

    I have heard it said that the amount of money lost to benefit fraud is significantly less than the amount of money which could be claimed in benefits but which is not. I don’t think the amount of tax which is overpaid is greater than the amount lost to tax evasion.

    • People resent paying tax. “They are taking my money.” Therefore there is perhaps some (jealous) admiration for those who manage to evade tax.

      I don’t think so. I think the attitude to those who evade tax is less admiration, jealous or otherwise, than annoyance that their crime means that those of us to who do pay tax have to pay more of our money to make up the shortfall. After all, given we resent tax, we resent even more those who make us have to pay more of it.

      Of course the attitude to tax avoidance is totally different, but tax avoidance is completely legal, there’s nothing wrong with it, and is practised by anyone who has an ISA or a pension.

      • I dont think you can talk about tax ‘avoidance’ in products the government has deemed should follow certain rules. It was the government’s decision to create such products.

        • I dont think you can talk about tax ‘avoidance’ in products the government has deemed should follow certain rules.

          Of course you can. That’s the very definition of tax avoidance — using legal means to reduce one’s tax bill — and what makes it different from tax evasion.

          If you have an ISA, you are practising tax avoidance.


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