David Gauke – playing the morality card can be very dangerous!

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Yesterday there was a furore over a comment made by Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke regarding the morality of paying cash in hand to tradesmen.  In response the Treasury last night issued a statement saying “The Tax Minister was clear that it is fine to pay in cash, but where that is done in order to artificially reduce a tax bill that is, of course, wrong.  While this is clearly not in the same league as multi-million pound tax dodges – and our priority remains to tackle large-scale aggressive avoidance by the richest in our society – the hidden economy does cost the Exchequer and it does mean other people have to pay more in tax to fund our public services. That is not fair.”

We elect our politicians to pass laws which are there to influence/control our behaviour.  Without laws there would be a free for all and no foundations for a stable and just society.

There is nothing criminal about legally arranging your affairs to minimise tax.  Also if you are a director of a company you actually have a responsibility to look after the interests of the shareholders, which would arguably include legally minimising tax liabilities.  However it is criminal to deliberately under-declare income to EVADE (not avoid) tax – it is fraudulent!   Don’t get me wrong I don’t think it is right when large companies and the wealthy pay ridiculously low amounts of tax; but the way to deal with that is to change the law!

If the Treasury’s main priority is to tackle large scale aggressive avoidance, does it then imply that the fraudulent declaration of income by tradesmen is “less immoral”?  And if that is the case, is it the thin end of a wedge (of fraudulent behaviour), that at some judgemental point becomes “more immoral” than aggressive tax avoidance?   Isn’t the law there as a foundation for a stable society and to set our standards?  And if so shouldn’t zero tolerance of fraudulent behaviour at all levels be a priority?

I suspect that the Treasury statement has been influenced by a combination of pragmatism and political expediency.  However playing the morality card can be extremely dangerous!

 

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