on 9 August 2013
I just don't have the quality & quantity of words to describe how good it is. It should be made compulsory for all current and future politicians to read it, and make it a setwork book at colleges and universities. We can see from the book why and how the filthy rich corporations (banks included) and individuals get away with tax fraud that the rest of us have to pay for.
I will add a copy of what I wrote to the local newspaper (The Orcadian) to help describe its contents:
I came to read the book called "The Great Tax Robbery: How Britain Became a Tax Haven for Fat Cats and Big Business", and found myself wondering why it is that we have failed to hold our government to account. What has happened to society, that it finds collecting Tesco points far more important than looking at the unjustifiably low tax Tesco is paying? And yet the public has to make up the shortfall on tax collection from such large corporations. Tesco is only one many large corporations with its snout in the tax-evasion trough, yet it will take a newspaper to court for publishing details inaccurately of its pigging out.
While most of us are obliged to pay tax exactly as decreed, "our" government fails stupendously in applying the rules for collection equitably, resulting in inequitably higher taxation for the rest of us (middle income classes and below), besides wasting and misappropriating huge amounts of our tax money (such as publicly unauthorised donations to other countries; charity beginning elsewhere, not at home). Even legal enforcements have become skewed in favour of big business, thereby corrupting the legal system.
Even up until 2008, tax inspectors were awarded higher levels of promotion for loyalty to senior management, not ability. Senior management, in turn, wanted the tax inspectors not to delve too deeply into the accounting of the big corporations who were grooming the senior managers to conform to lower tax requirements wanted by the corporations. All this takes place with the softly-softly approach to big business from political parties being fed with donations from big businesses wanting government to give them concessions.
Even as recent as August 2011, to quote from The Great Tax Robbery, page 201: "(in the week) that PM David Cameron promised Britain's rioting feral underclass `we will track you down, we will find you and we will punish you', and magistrates jailed a youth for stealing £3 worth of water, it was with a special kind of upper-class insensitivity that the Prime Minister's fellow Bullingdonian* George Osborne granted immunity from prosecution to the feral financial classes who were looting the economy of billions." [* A word derived from "Bullingdon", an exclusive dining club at Oxford.]
Today's government philosophy is to be (big) business-friendly in its tax collection, but it does so without heeding the observation made by Adam Smith some 235 years earlier, which is:
"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce that comes from this order (of businesses), ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but most suspicious intention. It (businesses) comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, deceived and oppressed it." [Ibid. Page 194]
So I ask the rhetorical question, what is new about modern business since the time of Adam Smith? Besides the obvious answer, what I see as new is that modern technology is simply speeding up the takings - from public to business - and economists are being groomed worldwide in higher education to see big business as "manna from heaven", and are advising governments worldwide in this regard. It is now wrongly believed that "small" is not beautiful.
In Britain, the most experienced tax collectors have gradually left their employment, to be replaced with inexperienced inspectors who were the equivalent of M·o·D pen-pushers, with no experience in combat, being appointed as generals, marshals and admirals. They don't stand a chance against the army of highly experienced corporate accountants and lawyers forcing them to make tax avoidance concessions. The Head of Revenue until recently, Dave Hartnet, had become autocratic, as well as choosing to surround himself with yes-men, which further isolated him from understanding what was happening in the latest developments of corporate tax evasion. (Ibid. Paraphrased from various passages)
It is ironic that some thirty years ago, the then Treasury chief secretary, Peter Rees, remarked that "the rules for controlling foreign companies (in such matters as tax collection) will make it more attractive for their businesses to take a profit in Britain than overseas. These measures will be good for business, good for enterprises, and good for jobs." Today's government has the opposite mindset, deregulating control to attract foreign companies, yet this is why many of today's big businesses are taking their jobs elsewhere: to evade taxation as allowed by current deregulation rules. (An irony, thanks again to Margaret Thatcher's ghost, and explained in great detail in The Great Tax Robbery)
There is also the fallacious argument that corporations like Tesco are able to sell things to us cheaply because of the low taxes they pay. I retort by saying that if Tesco paid their full taxes, we, the public could be paying less tax, making it still affordable to buy the things that Tesco might then have to sell at higher prices (after tax). Besides which, the playing field would be more level for all competitors in the same business as Tesco, allowing us to support smaller local businesses (who could also be paying less tax because the big corporations will have paid their full, equitable tax). Take note, Orkney, this applies to you as well.
It would need a brave, new government to make right the wrong. Has anyone seen such potential?