So Des Hudson has unleashed a micro-storm among the tax professionals, to the point that some felt the readers of the Daily Mail were the ones condemning it, which would indeed seem to be Satan rebuking sin.
It is not hard at this point to draw a parallel between the reaction of tax professionals here and that of Sepp Blatter a few days ago. Yes, there may be a few rotten apples but we’re all right really.
However, the common factor is that some practices which have been accepted for years are no longer acceptable because the public and moral perception of them has changed. How long this will last is anyone’s guess: Is this a paradigm shift?
How far this now goes can be seen by recent articles attacking the tax treatment of landlords as over generous and a suggestion (in the Daily Telegraph) that HMRC is being too kind with its attitude to appeals against late return penalties.
In the case of landlords it is not so much that the treatment is unreasonably generous (though the allowance of interest where the capital is not directly borrowed for the “business” seems to go beyond what is reasonable) as that ‘buy to let’ is coming to be seen as a social ill in a country where 80% of wage earners could not qualify for a mortgage on their own.
Which gives us a clue, should we need it. If people could believe “we’re all in this together” it might be different, but if your boss earns fifty times what you do and is not paying his full whack of taxes then tolerance of those practices becomes unlikely.
Even members of the government now feel a need to preach against tax avoidance – and they mean avoidance, not evasion. And if the Daily Mail really is preaching against it then the game for tax avoidance is well and truly up.
Where the new boundaries of acceptable behaviour will rest we don’t know, but the more tax professionals protest the further the backlash. And don’t forget there are as many accountants in the UK as in the rest of the EU put together.