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on 31 March 2013
While the coalition and their fellow travellers in the media hark on about structural deficits, the necessity of reforming (read: destroying) the already emaciated welfare state, and how over-taxing those poor souls earning £150K+ a year will bring ruin to the country, former tax inspector for Her Majesties Revenues & Customs (HMRC) and current Private Eye reporter Richard Brooks has been looking into the issue of taxation, in particular the levels of tax dodging by big, usually transnational business and obscenely rich individuals. The results of his investigations, informed by years of experience in Government, are collated together in "The Great Tax Robbery" and make extremely disturbing reading.

The opening chapter "Welcome to Tax Dodge City" with its series of graphs makes clear the dimensions of the problem, such as that during dozen years leading up to 2011 corporate profits have went up by over 50% but corporation tax receipts have been flat (and at a rate well below the headline rate of corporation tax). Over the same period the amount of corporation tax paid by small companies has increased from 15% of the total to 35% to the benefit of big (largely transnational) business. It also details the complete lack of correlation between tax rates and economic growth over time (in the UK) and across the OECD: in short the oft repeated canard that taxation will bring the economy to a grinding halt is to put it politely horses#!t.

The book goes on to explore how big business and wealthy individuals go about dodging taxation and looks into the four major accountancy firms which promote and arrange tax dodging (at the same time as profiting from government contracts); how the Public Private Partnerships, heartily embraced by the Blair/Brown government, have become a tax dodgers wet dream; the cosy relationship that grew up between HMRC and large business during the Blair era; how transfer pricing works; the links between the City of London and politicians from all parties, for instance 6 of the top 10 Tory donors make/made their money in the City; the fraudulent nature of coalition claims to be cracking down on tax dodging when in fact the exact opposite is happening; how the current tax regime warp the economy and privilege large corporations and the obscenely wealthy over smaller generally local businesses and ordinary working people.

One of the most disturbing revelations is the fact that individuals from companies that are clearly dodging taxes are being placed in positions to influence, if not write, new tax law and regulations. In a half way civilised society the facts revealed within would be a major and on-going scandal, instead we have occasional reporting that gives little idea of the whole picture. But what else can be expected from a media industry which is a member of the tax dodging fraternity itself?

Brooks puts the facts before the reader in a straightforward readable prose that is often dryly amusing, and has done well to describe the methods used by tax dodgers such as transfer pricing in a way that is comprehensible to the general reader. He also draws on a rich range of real world examples to illustrate his arguments. Overall this is a book I can hardly praise enough, one that deserves as wide a readership as possible and is indispensable to anyone interested in social justice or even just basic sense of decency. 110% Recommended.

An excellent companion volume to this book would be Nicholas Shasxson's Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World.
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