Tax avoidance: Fair or foul?

caution-taxes-tax-230x142There’s an interesting debate going on at AccountancyAge between tax justice campaigner Richard Murphy and BDO partner Stephen Herring. Both accountants by trade, but coming to radically different conclusions.


Murphy sets out his position on the morality of tax avoidance thus:

Where does the boundary lie between moral and immoral as Ray McCann asks? That’s easily answered: it is crossed when the action of the taxpayer could not have been anticipated by parliament and confers a benefit never intended by it. 99% of people have a moral compass that is 100% reliable on the issue. They can spot tax avoidance when they see it. This elephant test works.

Herring counters:

Put quite simply, we should never require an individual or a business which has three or four routes to make an investment to be required, or indeed expected, to choose the one which generates the highest tax liabilities; to choose another route is not ‘cheating’.

It’s sure to be a heated debate as I learned when I put on my own Tax & Transparency Forum last year. But what surprises me is how evenly split opinion is on the subject. As I write, 50% of AccountancyAge readers are backing Murphy and 50% are on Herring’s side.

Voting is still open, so be sure to have your say.

In the interests of transparency, which underpins the entire argument, I voted for Murphy.

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