Attending a debate on tax avoidance at the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation earlier today, I met an academic who angrily proclaimed to me that “all tax is theft”.
I replied that if one holds that view one should probably never use a hospital. One should probably not use roads or trains either, send one’s children to school or sit on one’s porch reading one’s copy of Libertarian Lately safe in the knowledge that one is protected from external and internal threats.
Unless you have private health insurance, travel by private jet, send your children to private school and have your own private army, tax is not theft. It is your contribution to the state that keeps you safe and well.
And if you do have all of those things, it would take a pretty callous person to expect the minimum wage single mother to go without healthcare, schooling, transport and personal safety just because she can’t afford them too.
It can be fairly argued that some taxes are regressive, punitive or overly burdensome. But all tax is not theft. Tax is the price we pay for civilised society. And of course those with the broadest shoulders should help carry the load for those who are struggling. Otherwise we all fall down.