Saturday, 17 November 2012

There is Something Profoundly Wrong with a Britain where Only the 'Little People' Pay Taxes

For its part, Amazon is on course to become the world’s most successful retailer.

It employs 15,000 people in Britain, whose hard work helped make this country responsible for about one-eighth of the company’s net sales. Yet the company reportedly pays no taxes on these £3.3 billion sales.

The reason is simple. If you buy something on its British website, the purchase is booked to its Luxembourg business, where — coincidentally, of course — taxes are significantly lower.

The business there employs just 500 people, yet its turnover last year was £7.3 billion.

However dubious it may be, such practices are not illegal. They demonstrate, however, the way in which a seedy amorality over paying tax has spread throughout the upper echelons of our society.

Consider this. We have a state broadcaster — reliant on a unique tax called the licence fee — that encouraged thousands of its highest-earning executives and stars to use tax- reducing ‘off-payroll’ firms.

Or take the head of the watchdog monitoring MPs’ expenses, who earns the equivalent of up to £169,000 a year. She uses a similar deal, allowing her to save thousands of pounds each year in National Insurance and income tax.

It is bad enough when such a bad example is set by the BBC and Westminster. Yet it gets worse: this month, we have seen evidence of how the taxman actually colludes with the rich when they break the law to help them evade prison.

So while millionaires are allowed to do secret deals and keep their names out of the public eye, tax-evading odd-job builders and benefit cheats are routinely jailed for ripping off the Revenue.

For example, look at what happened with the so-called Lagarde List, containing the names of 6,000 Britons with secret HSBC bank accounts stashed away in Switzerland.

This list was stolen by a software engineer, seized by the French authorities and handed to the tax authorities by the country’s former finance minister, Christine Lagarde, nearly three years ago.

It led to 500 people suspected of evading tax being investigated for serious fraud, and another 600 owning up to illegal non-disclosure of assets. The list probably included people prominent in public life.

Yet tax officials secretly decided to offer them immunity in exchange for payment of a penalty and their tax bills.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, November 17th, 2012.]

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