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Tax avoidance = benefit scrounging - according to Nick Clegg.

Tax avoidance = benefit scrounging - according...

"Today Mr Clegg will accuse middle class earners who pay accountants to minimise their tax bills of behaving like ‘benefit cheats’.
He will say that legal tax avoidance and illegal evasion are ‘just as bad’ as falsely claiming benefits, adding: ‘Both come down to stealing money from your neighbours."

Mail 20-9-10

Sources at HMRC suggested that “voice recognition analysis”, which alerts investigators when a caller claiming benefits sounds nervous, could be used to identify those seeking to mislead tax inspectors.

Telegraph 20-9-10

So - Mr Clegg wants to make legally arranging your affairs an "offence" and in one speech insults an entire profession and vast numbers of small business owners.

"Voice recognition analysis" is not accepted in courts and is, at best, little better than witchcraft based upon highly questionable pseudo-scientific theories which have been discredited time and again in the courts (particularly in the USA).   Despite this HMRC want to use it - which is one way of reducing phone calls because no sensible person would allow themselves to be falsly accused based on such mumbo-jumbo.

Clegg wants to harass innocent taxpayers, (particularly those with small businesses and paying the 50% tax rate), to intrusive investigations based on no facts whatsoever and actually wants to brand them as "criminals" for obeying the law.

I believe it is time the accountancy profession stood up to these bullying tactics and made it veery clear to government and to HMRC that we will not tolerate clients being harassed, villified, and threatened for doing what is totally legal.

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By cupcake
20th Sep 2010 10:33

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Well, where to start... 

There has been an increasing amount of more aggressive noises from HMRC and its representatives in recent months, and it does indeed seem that we have a situation that more and more ‘bullying ‘type tactics are to be used in order to garner a greater tax take. This is likely to have the effect of creating an even wider ‘us and them’-type gap between the general public and HMRC, as well as creating considerable fear into honest taxpayers. I do not agree with bullying tactics when, as CD rightly says, people have used perfectly legal schemes, loopholes, claims et al to minimise their tax liability.

 

And yet, and yet...my underlying thoughts remain that we really need to take a huge look at the way that certain individuals can earn huge sums and pay very little tax on it at all. I find it morally reprehensible that certain people (who have been in the news, no names, no pack drill) can ‘structure’ their affairs in such a way that they pay very little tax or none at all.

 

Our tax laws need to be totally rewritten from scratch and a fair and equitable system devised, whether that be some sort of flat rate scheme, an independent audit of high net worth individuals, or whatever else better people than me can come with. I am totally fed up with being told every day that we have to prepare for ‘cuts’ and that ‘we’re all in this together’ nonsense (yeah, right, Mr Osborne, I’m sure you’ll be suffering with the rest of us) when it is palpably clear that billions of pounds (not an exaggeration) could be saved if people paid their fair share. It is a moral issue and people should be very, very angry about it.

 

The problem is that HMRC wants to target the little guy, or at least the smallish guy, rather than the big fish. Of course if the little guy was a major political party donor or a lobbyist of some sort then they may not be targeted so robustly.

 

We have unfortunately reached a situation where we have a tax system of such byzantine complexity that no one truly knows what on earth is going on. As a result it is a very favourable climate for the very wealthy to pay professionals such as ourselves to find holes and make life very comfortable for them.

 

I’m not a Nick Clegg apologist but I think this was the main tenet of his comments – unfortunately, as ever, the wrong people will be targeted. Do we need a massive rethink of the way taxation is thought of in the UK? Yes. Do I think anything will happen? No. Nothing ever changes, and nothing ever will.

 

Rant over...

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20th Sep 2010 10:47

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I spat my coffee when I heard the soundbite on the news.

As I have said before, its up so us accountants to find legal ways to reduce somones tax.  Its up to HMRC to make thing clear cut and actively remove legal 'loopholes' they deem to be unfair.

You simply cant have a tax system in which it is legal to do something or claim something to pay less tax, but an inspector can then on a whim decide its "unfair avoidance" and tax you anyway.  That way madness lies, resentment builds and the whole thing comes toppling down.

Oddly enough the second thing I thought was "I bet the dragon will be enjoying this one on accounting web"

 

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20th Sep 2010 11:05

Nick Clegg?

A prat (or someone who sounds like one), who has cottoned on that he needs to address the desires of those to the left in his party or risk losing them Labour. A fatuous soundbite to prove he's no Tory. He's no statesman either. This will all blow over so no need for hyperventilation.

-- Kind regards Andy

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20th Sep 2010 11:10

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I spat my coffee when I heard the soundbite on the news.tooltip();

 

Posted by ireallyshouldkn... on Mon, 20/09/2010 - 10:47

 

Good - too much caffeine isnt good for you :)

 

______________________________________________________________

 This will all blow over so no need for hyperventilation.tooltip();

 

Posted by andypartridge on Mon, 20/09/2010 - 11:05

 

I hope you're right Andy - this sounds too much like a Labour class envy policy and I thought we had got rid of Labour.

 

 

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By PennyC
20th Sep 2010 11:17

Another one in agreement

I hope you're right Andy - this sounds too much like a Labour class envy policy and I thought we had got rid of Labour.

Clegg is by no means the first politician to demonstrate an inability to distinguish between legitimate arrangement of one's affairs to minimise their tax burden and illegal acts of tax evasion.

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By neileg
20th Sep 2010 11:50

Other avoidance

Will Mr Clegg be similarly critical of people who adjust their heating systems to minimise their energy consumption?

No I didn't think so.

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By PennyC
20th Sep 2010 11:53

Or car share

to cut down on petrol costs?

Or move credit card debt around to minimise interest?

Etc Etc Etc

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20th Sep 2010 11:56

The blurring of the edges

Until recently I was only aware of the classic two definitions: "Tax evasion" (illegal) and "tax avoidance" (legal).  I saw in the papers last week a third term being bandied about "tax planning" (legal and morally acceptable) (ie putting £20K into a pension fund) as distinguished from "tax avoidance" (legal but unintended by the legislation and for that reason morally unacceptable) (ie putting £100K into a pension fund - except that that has now been subjected to legislation).

I was of course always aware of "tax planning", but until now I thought that this was simply the exercise of ensuring that one's actions fall into the "tax avoidance" net which I had thought embraced all legal activity whatever the moral issues.  If there was a moral distinction, avoidance being morally unacceptable, then it was up to parliament to redefine the particular activity as evasion, following appropriate scrutiny by the House.

I don't see anything objectionable about redefining these terms provided that they are consistently applied in context and add clarity to what is being discussed.  It might be a superfluous waste of time in the eyes of those who think that if it is legal then by definition it must be morally acceptable, but there is little harm in wasted time.

I well remember that it was a former Conservative government that started to blur the edges, when Kenneth Clarke was delivering his budget statement in which he removed the ability to create or enhance a CGT loss by Indexation Allowance, and described it as an "anti-avoidance" measure.  Anti-avoidance??  This was a statury relief founded on a simple premise.  There was never an "avoidance" motive in claiming it, nor was there any genuine justification for denying the relief to a CGT loss in particular.  Its removal was nothing more than a convenient formula for raising a bit of cash, and needed the "anti-avoidance" label be attached in order to make the pill slightly less bitter in the swallowing.

What I suspect that Clegg is getting at is the number of occasions when existing returns would, upon adequate scrutiny, fall foul of the existing wealth of anti-avoidance legislation, in which case what was thought by the taxpayer to be avoidance was in fact evasion.

With kind regards

Clint Westwood

 

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20th Sep 2010 12:07

Small fish = Easy prey

The problem is that HMRC wants to target the little guy, or at least the smallish guy, rather than the big fish.

Couldn't agree more - in fact this is the more despicable aspect of HMRC's attitude. Those who are more likely to give in to their demands (regardless of the rights or wrongs of their circumstances) are more likely to be targetted. Thus a 'Risk Profile' undertaken by HMRC would favour targetting one taxpayer against another, simply because they are unrepresented.

I genuinely fear for anyone trying to operate a small business without representation nowadays. Most of them are doing nothing wrong, yet will be subject to HMRC's jackboot boys demanding money with menaces for simply operating in the way that thousands of UK businesses have operated for many years.

As former PM James Callaghan wrote in his memoirs - "Sometimes when I go to bed at night I think that if I were a young man I would emigrate". If I was a small business man, I would be looking to see if there was really any point in continuing. It might be easier to sell up, get a caravan and a one-way ferry to Spain. 

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20th Sep 2010 12:35

Definitions

-- Most politicians and infact most of the population do not understand the difference between tax avoidance and evasion. It is a distinction drawn by the profession and I do not include HMRC here.

Can we not promote the concept of tax planning or legal tax avoidance as opposed to illegal tax avoidance and evasio

bookhound

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20th Sep 2010 12:37

Did anyone see Danny Alexander on BBC tv this morning?

BBC had an interview with LibDem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander this morning.  When it was pointed out that he had avoided tax by making a ppr claim for a house that was not his main residence he denied it completely.  So did he or did he not make the election?  If he did, is this somehow acceptable but other tax avoidance unacceptable?

One rule for them and another for us.

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20th Sep 2010 12:47

Most people are honest

Most people, in my experience, are willing to pay their 'fair share' of tax. But then, I don't have any very wealthy individuals, or large companies, as clients.

Some people (regardless of wealth) resent paying any tax at all, and think the rest of us should educate their kids, pay for council amenities, the police, hospitals, etc.

I have small business clients earning a pittance who feel GUILTY because they don't pay tax. It is a shame that the wealthy indiviuals who pay virtually no tax are not blessed with the same conscience.

If HMRC made it more difficult for the companies & individuals who utilise agressive 'tax planning' to avoid virtually all tax then I would applaud them, but not if they target the little guys who are already being squeezed pretty hard.

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20th Sep 2010 15:15

Tax evasion/avoidance

We've collected a few more views on this in an article today:

http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/topic/tax/government-launches-900m-tax-ev...

It seems that quite a few people are upset with what they perceive as the conflation of tax avoiders with tax evaders. Lots of people seem keen to uphold this distinction and say avoiders shouldn't be punished in the same way.

I'm not sure what I think. On the one hand, we don't want to be guilty of "killing the goose that lays the golden egg" as one entrepreneur put it to me recently - by which I mean driving away high net worth individuals from the UK by penalising them harshly for arranging their tax affairs legally to minimise their liabilities. However, on the other hand the argument for getting everyone to pay their "fair share" is also compelling. I'm not a tax expert but I think working out what a "fair share" is quite a big problem!

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By Guest1
20th Sep 2010 15:58

A Daily Telegraph

article, dated 30 May 2010, seems to suggest that Douglas Alexander did admit that he took advantage of a "loophole" to "legally" avoid Capital Gains tax. There was no suggestion that Mr Alexander broke any tax laws.

The question is, Mr. Alexander, which bit of the law are you concerned about -the bit that affects the rest of us or, the bit that just affects politicians?

 

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20th Sep 2010 16:03

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Whats "fair" is for the government to decide and make into law

What is the law is for HMRC to enforce

What is permitted (or indeed encouraged) within the law is for accountants to use for the benefit of their clients.

To me it really is really quite clear set of responsiblities, and you cant blame the taxpayers/accountants for using legal means to reduce the amount of tax paid.  If its not "fair" make it illegal, or in other words, the government needs to do its job properly and create clear laws that can be easily applied. If there is doubt, people will assume they do not need to pay the tax.

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20th Sep 2010 16:36

Which of these is a "Fair Share" ?

1. Everything about a standard level (say £25,000) is taxed at 100% - This would ensure that there is no exclusion of oppertunity and everyone has the same standard of living. This would be seen as being a "Fair Share" to quite a lot of left-wing types inhabiting the Labour party. It would have the downside of most higher earning individuals (mostly the smarter ones as the Brain Drain of the 1960's and '70's proved) leaving the UK for other countries.

2. Progressive taxation where those earning higher amounts are taxed ever higher marginal rates of tax. This was true in the UK for various types of income during the Labour governments of the 1960's and 1970's. This didn't really change until the 1986 budget when the maximum income tax rate was dropped to 40%.

3. Flat taxation where everybody pays the same rate of tax (typically 20-30%). There are some examples across Europe, but they are difficult to describe as truly 'flat' as social insurance costs are additional.

4. Capped tax rate, where there is a maximum rate at which a person can be taxed (e.g. Hong Kong, which is progressive up to a rate of 16%).

5. Capped taxation, where there is a maximum that a single taxpayer can pay in tax (e.g. the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and similar 'low tax jurisdictions' which are capped around £115,000 - £200,000)

6. Zero taxation, where there is no tax on income, but other taxes, duties and charges for basic services are made to service 'public goods'.

Depending upon where you are on the political spectrum, from ultra-left wing Marxist/Leninist to ultra-right wing Libertarian, each of the above may seem like a 'Fair Share' of taxation. However, the only thing that is almost universally true is that where an individuals tax burden rises significantly, clearly that is 'Unfair'. The problem is how do you ensure that only 'other people' pay higher taxes.

Maybe John Cleese did get it right back in the 1960's: "I think they should tax foreigners living overseas"

Good one John.

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20th Sep 2010 16:42

Politics of envy

I shudder when I see the term "fair share" bandied around. What is a "fair share"? I don't know and I suspect no one does. A government exists to provide common services for a country. It needs funding. That much is obvious.

Without tax planning (avoidance, call it what you will) a person with high income will pay far more tax than a person on low income. Chances are quite high that the former makes much less of common services than the latter because he can afford private health care, private education, etc. Let us assume he uses tax avoidance to reduce his income tax bill to nil. But if he remains in the UK he is still paying, we assume, council tax, VAT, employer's NI on domestic help, etc. This is likely to add up to a large sum. Should he be forced to pay even more and considered "evil" if he doesn't?

It is up to the government to make tax law and they only have themselves to blame if the law does not work as intended. I have never seen any comments accusing the government of being evil or immoral when a tax law does not operate in a "fair" way forcing a taxpayer to pay more than his "fair share" and there are more than a few examples of this.

The problem is that envy of the rich and successful is a powerful emotion and one that politicians will seek to exploit time and time again. So labels of evil and immoral will continue to be applied to tax avoiders. After all how many votes do the tax avoiders have for the politicians to lose? Not many.

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20th Sep 2010 16:56

The Daily Telegraph gets it wrong again

Never believe what you read in newspapers!

Danny Alexander paid the correct amount of tax based on the law. He did not take advantage of a 'loophole' (as The Daily Telegraph put it) but rather a legitimate CGT exemption that was created and supported by successive governments. The property was his main (and only) residence until 2007, when he was obliged to designate it as his 'second home' for Parliamentary purposes. He sold this property in 2009, well within the three-year limit. For most of the time he owned the property, he was not even an MP and therefore was not claiming any expenses for it. Most (if not all) of the capital gains occurred before he entered Parliament, so there isn't even a moral case to answer.

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20th Sep 2010 17:02

Everyone avoids paying too much tax!

Both the last government and this one have vowed to clamp down on tax 'avoidance' - presumably as they deem it to be morally wrong. Yet, every (reasonable) person avoids paying too much tax. The problem is that politicians and their minions have equated 'avoidance' with 'evasion' for purely political reasons - in much the same way that Gordon Brown successfully blamed the recession entirely on 'casino bankers' when it was much more a failure of regulation and 'prudence'. It is rather depressing that the popular media have gone along with these falsehoods.

Our tax system is full of 'incentives' in the form of different tax rates or allowances. Presumably, each such incentive was created by government with the express purpose of encouraging the generation of income in certain ways. There would be little point in tax avoidance if all income was taxed at the same rate.

Now, forgive me if my logic is flawed, but it seems to me reasonable for anyone to minimise the tax they pay within the rules that successive governments have established. If the government of the day doesn't like the current tax rules then it should change them!

Now that 'avoidance' is a dirty word, what we need is a new word or phrase that means 'paying the correct amount of tax'. Perhaps we already have such a word in common usage: 'planning'. So, I would urge all tax professionals to use 'planning' wherever you might have used 'avoidance': both in writing and verbally.

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20th Sep 2010 17:12

Where's the cut off Point

When I first read the article, I thought that the target was "advanced" tax planning schemes, perhaps those disclosed under DOTAS.

But where does avoidance stop? What about the low salary v dividend planning?, surely there is a deliberate attempt to avoid tax & NI there?

How many businesses register for flat rate VAT, not because they want to simplify matters but because they can make a couple of quid off the back of the flat rate scheme?

 

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20th Sep 2010 17:25

So let's engage in a little "Tax Planning" shall we?

So, I would urge all tax professionals to use 'planning' wherever you might have used 'avoidance': both in writing and verbally.

How long would it take before the 'planning' aspect above became 'planning...to avoid tax' or 'planning...to evade tax'. If the practice became widespread, I reckon it would take about a day before HMRC issued a press release condemning those accountancy firms engaged in 'aggressive tax planning...whose only intention can be to avoid paying the right amount of tax'.

Maybe the Government should start producing their own dictionaries so that we could gradually engineer such ambiguities out of the language. We could call it NewSpeak.

Now that rings a bell somewhere...

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20th Sep 2010 18:21

You are charged with driving at 25mph in a 30mph zone.

To say that evasion (illegal) is the same thing as avoidance (legal) is plain daft.

What next I wonder ?  Maybe speeding tickets for doing 25 in a 30 zone because the police "decide" its not illegal but you should be fined anyway ?

What the politicians have done by making this bizarre statement is to make themselves look total prat*s, and hypocrits as I doubt there is one of them that hasnt avoided tax at some point.

What I believe we can now expect is bully boy tactics from pompous little Hitlers in HMRC who will see this as the perfect excuse to harass and threaten small businesses.

Of course they might just find a lot of businesses will do exactly what I would do if faced with such accusations. Close the business, throw the employees onto the dole, and clear off somewhere sunny with no extradition treaty.  Other businesses will fail due to extortionate tax demands, and all that will be achieved is less taxpayers and more unemployment benefit to pay.   

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20th Sep 2010 22:27

One thing

is sure. The end of the Lib/Dems is nigh.

Cleggy has gone power crazy. He wants to chase "Tax Avoiders" or should I say "legal tax payers" and he also wants to chase "tax evaders". Perhaps someone should pin a tail to his bum and let him loose in a rather large field perhaps in Wales, WD where you can keep an eye on him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

 

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20th Sep 2010 23:10

Perfect

Perhaps someone should pin a tail to his bum and let him loose in a rather large field perhaps in Wales, WD where you can keep an eye on him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! tooltip();

Posted by johnjenkins on Mon, 20/09/2010 - 22:27

 

I know just the field - where the local farmer keeps his bull.  A politician should feel right at home in a field full of bull sh**.

 

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By ZXCVBNM
20th Sep 2010 23:30

Encouragement by the government for tax avoidance

I get nursery vouchers for my children and avoid tax and I am encouraged to this by the government.

I run a green car not to save the planet but to avoid tax and I am encouraged to do this by the government.

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21st Sep 2010 00:23

Lie detectors

"Middle-class families could be forced to undergo lie detector tests as part of a major crackdown on tax avoidance being spearheaded by Nick Clegg."
Read more:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1313511/Clegg-tax-war-middle-class-Families-face-lie-detector-tests.html#ixzz107BbhrqW

 

I wonder if MPs will take them before every election - and when telling us their expense claims are legitimate ?  - No - thought not.

 

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21st Sep 2010 08:17

Fair share

I take serious execption to the "fair share" ethos, or sound bite if you like. There would be no need to use this term if the Governement produced fully transparent public accounting which allowed the taxpayer to see where their tax Pounds are spent. Thus, it would be simple for Government to say "this is what it takes to run the Country therefore the tax rate required to pay for it is x%."

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By ACDWebb
21st Sep 2010 10:54

re
Lie detectors

"Middle-class families could be forced to undergo lie detector tests as part of a major crackdown on tax avoidance being spearheaded by Nick Clegg."
Read more:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1313511/Clegg-tax-war-middle-class-Families-face-lie-detector-tests.html#ixzz107BbhrqW

I wonder if MPs will take them before every election - and when telling us their expense claims are legitimate ?  - No - thought not.

_______________________________________________________________________

Good old Daily Mail getting its pants in a twist. I presume that by "lie detector tests" they are actually referring to the the voice recognition software, not strapping interviewees to a machine.

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21st Sep 2010 11:36

I agree that the Daily Mail is full of hyperbole

Good old Daily Mail getting its pants in a twist. I presume that by "lie detector tests" they are actually referring to the the voice recognition software, not strapping interviewees to a machine.

This is all very well and good, but put the boot on the other foot. Say HMRC called and I said "Hang on a minute - I just need to turn on the vocal analyser to see if your lying or not". I don't think they would be very happy about that. They're not particularly happy about being voice recorded during telephone calls as it has the annoying habit of catching them out lying or harrassing taxpayers and their agents as CD has mentioned previously.

It is time that HMRC was demerged from the old Customs and Excise arm as the merger with the 'heavy boys' has completely infected the relationship between the 'Inland Revenue' arm and taxpayers.

Yes - some taxpayers fiddle their returns and need to be dealt with firmly by HMRC, but most just don't understand them. Given that the vast majority are innocent (but confused), the approach of "Innocent until proven guilty" should still apply.

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21st Sep 2010 12:02

Reading tea leaves

Good old Daily Mail getting its pants in a twist. I presume that by "lie detector tests" they are actually referring to the the voice recognition software, not strapping interviewees to a machine.

tooltip();

 

Posted by ACDWebb on Tue, 21/09/2010 - 10:54

 

"Voice analysis" is already being used by the benefits agency and is about as accurate as reading tea leaves.

This is yet another move towards a pseudo-communist stasi and is a move that all right thinking people should oppose.

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By ACDWebb
21st Sep 2010 13:44

I'm not suggesting it is right to use dubious technology

merely noting the inflammatory headline blowing one thing up to a suggestion of something quite different.

Perhaps they'd be better off looking at Private Eye - Britain's £6bn VODAFONE bill A shriek from the other end of the scale?

 

 

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21st Sep 2010 16:09

aggressive and sophisticated!!

According to Lord Oakshott (who really does need a quiet lie down in a darkened room, possibly in one of those nice white jackets with all the buckles...), the decision of Credit Suisse to pay a bonus 5 months after the bank levy closed "... could be interpreted as "sophisticated and aggressive tax avoidance..." so, bankers and their morals aside... when I decide not to sell my asset this year - and maybe hang on to it until 2012 or 2013 in case CGT rates have dropped, or in anticipation of a loss I know is going to accrue in future, am I being sophisticated and aggressive? What about if I've used my annual exemption this year, but I know I won't have next year...? I'd love to know!

I wish HMRC would concentrate some resource on 649 much needed tax enquiries... wholly, exclusively and necessarily is a very narrow definition, you know...

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By mwngiol
21st Sep 2010 16:19

Simplification

The only way to end the whole evasion/avoidance/planning debate is to totally revamp the tax system and come up with a modern, simplified solution. Redesign it from the bottom up, taking time to ensure that it's robust and that it won't require almost endless new rules to close loopholes which shouldn't have existed in the first place if suffficient care had been taken. Or, of course, introduce a GAAR. Whatever happened to that debate btw?

Whilst I agree that everyone should be free to minimise their tax liablilities in whichever way they see fit within the law, I can't help feeling that a tax system under which the amount of tax you pay depends on the amount you can afford to pay an accountant is fundamentally flawed.

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21st Sep 2010 23:23

Courts

It will be interesting to see someone take it to court and see what a court makes of HMRC demanding extra tax when the taxpayer has arranged his affairs in a totally LEGAL way.

Courts dont worry much about "morals" - especially the dubious "morals" of politicians - they DO bother about legality.

It will be nice to see HMRC get another bloody nose.

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22nd Sep 2010 11:55

Isnt tax planning just getting it right?

If we drop the tax planning side, we simply dont check anything and send it is as is, HMRC picks it up for enquiry or doesnt.

Of course we are then wide open for PI problems and failing to exercise due care or whatever the current phrase is.

The simplest route is surely no CGT/IHT/IT etc etc etc and VAT goes up to 25% (that should be enough to cover most of the squandering needed by HM Gov.

Of course there would then be a bit of an unemployment hit in a few areas and who would the politicians berate then?

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22nd Sep 2010 12:08

"Mr Loophole"

<<Maybe speeding tickets for doing 25 in a 30 zone because the police "decide" its not illegal but you should be fined anyway ?>>

And "consultants" charging eye-watering sums to spend ten years arguing that "30" actually meant "31" and should have a further "tolerance" allowed over that?

(I understand there really is a bloke who does that, known as "Mr Loophole". Who apparently declined to perform the same service for his own daughter when she was caught...interesting personal ethics there?)

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22nd Sep 2010 16:09

10%

I understand there really is a bloke who does that, known as "Mr Loophole". Who apparently declined to perform the same service for his own daughter when she was caught...interesting personal ethics there?)

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Posted by Karen Watson on Wed, 22/09/2010 - 12:08

 

I think the "ethics" were that his daughter wasnt paying him a big fat fee.

Actually, as a matter of law, 30 really means 33, 70 really means 77, etc  as their has to be a 10% margin allowed for the inaccuracy of the speedometer.  This first arose after it was show that speedometers were inaccurate and that therefore anyone caught "speeding" would have a valid civil claim against the manufacturers if they could show that their speedometer had actually indicated a speed within the speed limit. 

 

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23rd Sep 2010 08:10

Under-reading

Yes, and if you now check your car's speedo against a GPS unit (with someone else driving) you will note that the car under-reads by 10%.

I kept wondering why, when travelling for an hour at 70mph, I had only gone about 65 miles !

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23rd Sep 2010 08:31

Mr Loophole

Actually my opinion of Mr Loophole shot up with this report.  Not only did he say that he wasn't going to get his daughter off the entirely legitimate charge, but he also said that he realised he was being a total hypocrite about the whole thing.   Self-knowledge is an appealing quality.

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23rd Sep 2010 09:34

Mr Loophole

No idea whether your reading of his character or CD's is the correct one - interesting to speculate both ways. But it does illustrate the moral hazard of people being aware that there are practitioners prepared for a fee to get them off laws other people have to comply with and regardless of the consequences.

And CD: I wonder if the law has yet caught up with the fact that someone in possession of a GPS should be aware of the *real* speed they are doing and take action accordingly?

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23rd Sep 2010 10:37

Moral hazards & modern technology

But it does illustrate the moral hazard of people being aware that there are practitioners prepared for a fee to get them off laws other people have to comply with and regardless of the consequences.

And CD: I wonder if the law has yet caught up with the fact that someone in possession of a GPS should be aware of the *real* speed they are doing and take action accordingly?

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Posted by Karen Watson on Thu, 23/09/2010 - 09:34

 

What "moral hazard".  Like it or not it has always been the case that justice can be bought.  And accountants are no different. How many accountants help people who cannot pay them, despite the fact these people need help dealing with HMRC?

A barrister faced with a rich client willing to pay top rate fees will take on the case, the same barrister faced with a penniless client unable to obtain legal aid quite simply wont. That is why there is a requirement to do a certain amount of pro bono work.

What i have always considered unacceptable is the lack of representation of people facing minor charges in magistrates courts.  Most magistrates courts are filled with unrepresented previously respectable citizens charged with some minor offence and being "judged" by a bunch of ameteurs (magistrates).  Quite simply its more like a scene from some 18th century kangaroo court than from a modern judicial system.

My view is that somewhere betwen half and three quarters of all magistrates court convictions would not occur if the accused had proper representation.

As for the law "catching up" with modern technology - perhaps someone with a GPS device would know the "right" speed.  However, by the same token then, the various stopping distances of modern cars should also be factored in. As a simple example a Golf Gti or a BMW 1 series can stop from 50mph in approximately half the distance it takes a RangeRover 4x4.  So, should 4x4's be restricted to 20mph and others cars allowed to drive at 40 ?  

 

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23rd Sep 2010 12:30

Random thought for the day

 After reading the responses to this (and other similar posts) my random thought for the day is:

Taxation, politics and economics - are these a modern day "unholy trinity"?

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23rd Sep 2010 14:11

Unholy Trinity

There could be many combinations of UT but they would all have Gordon Brown in them.

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23rd Sep 2010 14:24

Did you HAVE to remind us ...............

There could be many combinations of UT but they would all have Gordon Brown in them.

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Posted by johnjenkins on Thu, 23/09/2010 - 14:11

 

Go and wash your mouth out with soap and water - how dare you mention the person whose effect on Britains economy was about the same as the plague was on public health.

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23rd Sep 2010 15:16

Morals? What morals? ;-)

<< What "moral hazard".  >>

The temptation to do something you probably wouldn't do if you didn't KNOW (or think you did) you could evade the consequences. (Or worse still, make someone else suffer them instead.) And the contempt for other people you develop when you start valuing their lives purely by whether they can pay more or less for their own way than you.

<< And accountants are no different. How many accountants help people who cannot pay them, despite the fact these people need help dealing with HMRC? >>

You had better enquire of (I think it is) LITRG - I believe they are the relevant charity?

<< What i have always considered unacceptable is the lack of representation of people facing minor charges in magistrates courts.  Most magistrates courts are filled with unrepresented previously respectable citizens charged with some minor offence and being "judged" by a bunch of ameteurs (magistrates).  Quite simply its more like a scene from some 18th century kangaroo court than from a modern judicial system.>>

I haven't noticed any mass public hangings lately ;-P

And surely the best people to judge "respectable citizens" are those who probably come from a very similar class and background and know exactly what the excuses are. You'd rather like the only Magistrate I know well - I suspect his politics are not so very different from your own. And believe me, there is no way that man will ever be "bought" *tips hat respectfully*

<< As for the law "catching up" with modern technology - perhaps someone with a GPS device would know the "right" speed.  However, by the same token then, the various stopping distances of modern cars should also be factored in. As a simple example a Golf Gti or a BMW 1 series can stop from 50mph in approximately half the distance it takes a RangeRover 4x4.  So, should 4x4's be restricted to 20mph and others cars allowed to drive at 40 ?  >>

I don't know how the speed limits are arrived at so I'll leave that one for those better (and more technically?) informed to take.

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23rd Sep 2010 15:59

Karen

I haven't noticed any mass public hangings lately ;-P

And surely the best people to judge "respectable citizens" are those who probably come from a very similar class and background and know exactly what the excuses are. You'd rather like the only Magistrate I know well - I suspect his politics are not so very different from your own. And believe me, there is no way that man will ever be "bought" *tips hat respectfully*

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Posted by Karen Watson on Thu, 23/09/2010 - 15:16

 

 

Unlike America which still executes people (including 100 in the last 40 years who were subsequently proven to be innocent - and a woman who is scheduled to die tomorrow (Thursday) despite lacking mental competence) we don't hang people any more, but, a wrongful conviction in a magistrates court can still have disasterous results such as the man who lost his licence having achieved 12 points for a dubious speeding offence, subsequently lost his job  as he could drive, then lost his home as he couldnt pay the mortgage, and eventually committed suicide.

As for magistrates "coming from similar class and background" - if only that was the case.  The average magistrate is a  white middle class financially independant person whose circle of friends includes the Chief Constable, the local golf club president, and the leading lights of the Womens Institute.   Hardly the same background as your average petty thief, prostitute, or drug addict.

I would not suggest that magistrates can be "bought" - however, it is painfully obvious that the vast majority are house trained by the local constabulary and suffer from the delusion that police officers are honest and that prosecutors would never prosecute someone who wasnt guilty.

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23rd Sep 2010 16:09

Which one?

Er, hang on....

You started with this:

<<Most magistrates courts are filled with unrepresented previously respectable citizens charged with some minor offence and being "judged" by a bunch of ameteurs (magistrates).>>

And now you're posting this:

<<As for magistrates "coming from similar class and background" - if only that was the case.  The average magistrate is a  white middle class financially independant person whose circle of friends includes the Chief Constable, the local golf club president, and the leading lights of the Womens Institute.   Hardly the same background as your average petty thief, prostitute, or drug addict.>>

Okay, not a few thieves, prostitutes etc *are* "previously respectable citizens" but aren't you getting a bit Double Dragon on this one?

(A very fine ale as I recall <s>)

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23rd Sep 2010 16:15

Voice recognition

Ok lets lighten the debate.

One of the Mission Impossibles had the ability to change voices. So how about answering the phone to HMRC with Ozzie Osbourne's voice.

"Who the f are you. What the f do you want" etc. etc. etc.

Or perhaps Prince Charles "errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ".

Maybe the British Gas switchboard "to tell us you want to pay, press one. To tells us you have already paid, press 2. To tell us we have made an error, go back to the main menu".

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23rd Sep 2010 18:42

Karen

 

Karen - my point is that whilst those accused can and do come from all sorts of backgrounds, the vast majority of magistrates tend to be drawn from a fairly narrow section of society. Various attempts to broaden the range of people appointed have generally been innefective. 

Also, that in an atmosphere where the magistrates are pre-programmed to automatically accept the word of the police & prosecution, the unrepresented defendant has almost zero chance, particlary those from perhaps less educated backgrounds.

At the risk of being accused (by some) of repeating an experience - many years ago as I was leaving a magistrates court after a 5 minute hearing I saw a young lady waiting to go into court. She was crying, shaking, and obviously totally terrified. People were simply walking past her ignoring her despite her obvious distress. Being a gentleman (which I do try to be) I approached her and asked if she needed help. Between her sobs I quickly established that she was alone, was unrepresented, and had been charged with soliciting.

To cut a long story short I got an adjournment until after lunch - took her into the city centre and bought her some more appropriate clothes for court, got her to sort out her makeup, and spent a few minutes going over the prosecution case (which was pretty weak as it relied on the word of one officer).

The prosecution, believing her to be unrepresented, had done a sloppy job of preparation.

In short it took 20 minutes to destroy the prosecution case without the young lady having to say a word and for her to leave court without a blemish on her record.

Now, that lady who could have been destroyed by a conviction, has been one of my closest friends for 30+ years, still works for me, and is one of the few people I would trust with my life. 

On another occasion I was handed a written verdict made by magistrates in which a defendant was found guilty of committing an offence on 31st November. (Obviously this was a very easy appeal as there are of course only 30 days in November).  This crass stupidity by magistrates including the appeal etc cost you, the taxpayer, around £50,000 in costs, court time etc.   

As I said, amateur magistrates led by the nose by lazy policemen and equally lazy prosecutors are wrongly destroying peoples lives every day. 

 

 

 

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27th Sep 2010 11:15

You don't say...?

<<(Obviously this was a very easy appeal as there are of course only 30 days in November).  >>

Now I KNOW I'm in an accountants' forum!

 ;-)))

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