Paying your dues: Tackling aggressive tax avoidance

Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP
Dr Evan Harris
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, Head of Taxation, ACCA
Dr Jamie Whyte, Head of Research and publicationss, Oliver Wyman & Company
Ian Mulheirn, Director, SMF

‘Frankly some of these schemes, where people are parking huge amounts of money offshore and taking loans back to minimise their tax rates, are not morally acceptable’ Prime Minister David Cameron, June 2012

With the UK’s public finances in a mess, the attention of politicians has increasingly focused on the legitimacy of tax avoidance by wealthy individuals. The recent outrage at the discovery of new avoidance schemes has brought the morality of the issue to the forefront of the political agenda. David Cameron described tax avoidance schemes as “morally wrong” and George Osborne has said such behaviour is “morally repugnant”. Treasury figures suggest that almost one-in-ten people earning above £10 million pay a tax rate below 20%, and more than a quarter pay below the 40% rate.

Our debate will look at such questions as: what is the dividing line between legitimate and ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance? How are we to judge the distinction if not by following the letter of the law? Is the cap on tax reliefs an adequate or appropriate response? And what else should government be doing to clamp down on either illegitimate tax avoidance or illegal tax evasion through the use of tax havens?

In the third of our series of debates on shoring up the UK tax base, the Social Market Foundation asks what should be done to make sure that individuals are paying their dues in a simple, fair and efficient personal tax system. Join Michael Meacher MP, who recently tabled a Private Member’s Bill on tax avoidance, Professor Jamie Whyte and Dr Evan Harris to discuss this important issue.