Political

Is the government’s crackdown on tax avoidance working?

Interesting news via The Times over the weekend:

Britain’s only listed accountancy firm is to close its specialist tax division in a move that will be regarded as another victory for Revenue & Customs against tax avoidance by the rich.

RSM Tenon said yesterday that it would stop offering products through its Premier Strategies division because recent moves by the Government to clamp down on what it perceives as aggressive tax avoidance had made the tax planning business too difficult and risky. Chris Merry, Tenon’s chief executive, said: “The market for specialist tax has changed dramatically over the past few years as the Government has tightened legislation. Tailored tax-saving products have in the past had a strong audience, but have become much more difficult to offer.”

The follows up a regular Liberal Democrat theme in government, as Prateek Buch blogged about on this site in January:

The Voice’s Mark Pack has been writing about the Party’s challenges in 2012 – as if on cue, leader Nick Clegg set out his priorities for Lib Dems in Government in a Radio 4 Today interview…

As reported in The Guardian, these priorities include tackling tax avoidance by both corporations and wealthy individuals, clamping down on excessive and undeserved top pay, and re-engaging with governments and business in Europe following the Prime Minister’s unhelpful showing in Brussels at the end of last year…

There were encouraging words for those of us who want this Government to take a stronger line on the unfair exploitation of complicated loopholes in the tax system. Nick made it clear that Lib Dems were seeking to implement measures that would amount to a General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR), as recommended by Graham Aaronson in a report for the Treasury. It’s probably not surprising, as The Voice previously suggested, that a GAAR along the lines that Aaronson proposes would be more narrowly focussed than an anti-avoidance rule, but it would nonetheless go some way to making it harder for companies and wealthy individuals to ‘play the system’ and avoid paying their fair share of taxes – which as Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams’ Early Day Motion suggests, is the ultimate aim of such measures. Coupled with lifting the personal income tax allowance yet further, the idea is to shift the ensure the tax system is fair and transparent.

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