As Graham Aaronson predicts more tax riots in The Times, we come up with an innovative solution to end Taxgate forever. Should politicians lead the way by giving back any proceeds of questionable tax avoidance?
It is heartening to see that the Prime Minister has made a personal stand on behalf of morality in response to the current Taxgate scandal. One would expect no less from an upstanding leader of a governing political coalition.
Now is the time for Mr Cameron to go a step further. A couple of months ago, he and George Osborne amongst others offered to publish their personal tax returns (although not those of their loved ones).
While many of us in the profession might view the prospect of seeing yet more tax returns as rather tedious, perhaps the time has come for this pair, together with their 648 parliamentary colleagues in the lower house and every member of the House of Lords to publish their own tax returns.
They might also choose to go one step further and make those of spouses and civil partners publicly available too. This would be a great demonstration of good faith.
Once you get on to the question of tax and morality, the situation becomes tricky and tax advisers are amongst the last people to decide on such tricky issues. Coincidentally, yesterday I met a minister of religion who has a far better understanding of these matters than we lay people. Thankfully, he had not invited me in to discuss an abusive tax avoidance scheme for his church.
There is only one certain solution for those who believe that some of the tax avoidance schemes discussed of late are immoral. That is to await court decisions that could take decades to come through.
However, there is an alternative way. Now is the time for Mr Cameron to call publicly for every member of both Houses of Parliament, every member of the Conservative Party and in particular, its major donors to give him a helping hand.
Having been part of a long-term commitment to cut HMRC to the bone, the only way of resolving this issue satisfactorily from a moral viewpoint would be to ask everybody who feels that they have immorally reduced their tax bill to make voluntary payments to HMRC equivalent to all of the tax that they have saved as a matter of urgency. If all of the groups named above did so, one would hope that everyone else involved would follow suit.
This simple step should have a large number of benefits. It will
- Head off the impending tax riots that are predicted by Mr Aaronson in today's edition of The Times.
- Make a lot of very guilty individuals feel better in their own hearts.
- Enable the Times to free up its front page for coverage of those plucky little Brits playing their hearts out at Wimbledon (but sadly not Roy's lads in Ukraine).
- Bring in some much-needed cash to the Exchequer.
- Take pressure off both HMRC and the courts.
- Give the whole country a massive boost in the wettest summer on record.
Mr Cameron you know that it makes sense to take this simple step and I look forward to reading tomorrow's headline in The Times when you announce that, as a start, any MP who has entered into tax avoidance measures at some point in the last two or three decades (and there may be none) will be sending cheques to HM Revenue and Customs by the end of the week.
You can follow the trail in earlier articles