Tuesday 17 September 2013

Tax, Lies and Videotape

So after all the hype, how did Panorama's Tax, Lies and Videotape pan out? 

Well, yes, Richard Brooks of Private Eye was a key figure in the programme, but the programme wasn't by any means an out-and-out piece of campaigning journalism.

Its central argument was that there's an uneasy tension between the government stated desire that everyone should pay their fair share of tax and the government's hope for Britain to remain an attractive place for large businesses to invest in. Do UK taxpayers lose out if foreign companies avoid paying their 'fair share' of tax? 

The programme did rather assume that all tax avoidance is a bad thing, ignoring the fact that most of us 'little people' engage in some form of it - and are, indeed, encouraged to do so by the government (ISAs, pensions, etc). 

Surely not all tax avoidance by 'big businesses' is wrong either, if it's legal. And any tax adviser worth his salt (maybe even the poor HMRC chap who was made to look shifty by the programme's use of fidgety undercover filming) is surely only doing his job if he advises a company - even a multinational company - how to pay the absolute minimum in tax that it is legally obliged to pay, so that it can continue to thrive as best it can. A legal loophole is a legal loophole after all.


  1. Tax evasion via keeping two sets of books is criminal. A gang of specialists evading tax is a criminal conspiracy - however high up the tree they are. There is $32 trillion buried in tax-havens, crippling the global economy. We, The People, want it back and the evader's jailed. Crooked bookkeepers will be brought to book.

  2. This program does nothing but contribute to the misinformation that is rife in the media about tax. It is completely biased, under researched, misleading and shows only pieces of information rather than the whole picture. The presenter obviously knows little about our tax system and should educate himself before preaching to the masses.

    Further to Craig's review above, a tax adviser was recently sued by his client for NOT informing him of a tax scheme, to the tune of £1m (Hossein Mehjoo). And that's a tax SCHEME, not a statutory exemption such as SSE that was used by Vodofone.

    Incidently, the 'wonderful' Margaret Hodges comments about the abuse of the system, and it is no secret she has been vocal about looking into Vodafone's tax affairs after the recent 'scandal'. Its not a scandal. Its not tax avoidance. Its the use of a legislated relief that is used by thousands of companies, big and small, every year that was introduced by Labour in 2002


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