Big Society Revenues & Customs

December 17, 2010 11:46 AM

Campaigners are planning to protest outside Topshop, Barclays and Vodafone branches tomorrow as part of the UK Uncut 'Pay Day' event. The group claims various organisations are underpaying tax by £25bn. Most alarmingly, they do not accuse the "tax thieves" of breaking any laws and accept that the disputed figures are simply derived from their opinions about what the law on tax ought to be. Vodafone, for example, is alleged to have been "let off" paying £6bn in taxes by UK Uncut's reckoning. Vodafone denies this. HMRC have called the figure an "urban myth". None of that has put off the people who style themselves as the "Big Society Revenues & Customs", though, as the Public and Commercial Services Union's Mark Serwotka explained:

"How can it be fair to close libraries, sack public sector workers and hike up student fees while there are people who are exploiting loop holes and not paying their way in this country. It's about the type of morals that I would like to see in this country, and it's about trying to solve our financial difficulties by concentrating on taxing those who can most afford it."

The ideas behind the campaign are both morally disturbing and practically dangerous. They are morally disturbing because we rely on the principle that individuals and companies are forced to pay the tax they are legally required to and no more. We plan our lives based on the rules of the game and those rules determine tax liabilities. I don't want to live in a society where government officials can ignore the law and decide for themselves that you cannot take advantage of something the law says you can. I don't want the sort of society where it is left to vigilantes to decide on the guilt and punishment of a defendant, nor one where it is left to political activists to determine someone's tax bill.

But it's not just the moral issue. UK Uncut need to wake up to the reality of the situation we are in. Hiking up already high taxes is not the answer to our giant deficit. Before tomorrow's events, protesters should read the Adam Smith Institute think piece on why tax and spend makes us all poorer, the TaxPayers' Alliance report "Can tax increases solve the United Kingdom’s public finance crisis?" and then Matthew Sinclair's book "How to cut public spending and still win an election".Campaigners are planning to protest outside Topshop, Barclays and Vodafone branches tomorrow as part of the UK Uncut 'Pay Day' event. The group claims various organisations are underpaying tax by £25bn. Most alarmingly, they do not accuse the "tax thieves" of breaking any laws and accept that the disputed figures are simply derived from their opinions about what the law on tax ought to be. Vodafone, for example, is alleged to have been "let off" paying £6bn in taxes by UK Uncut's reckoning. Vodafone denies this. HMRC have called the figure an "urban myth". None of that has put off the people who style themselves as the "Big Society Revenues & Customs", though, as the Public and Commercial Services Union's Mark Serwotka explained:

"How can it be fair to close libraries, sack public sector workers and hike up student fees while there are people who are exploiting loop holes and not paying their way in this country. It's about the type of morals that I would like to see in this country, and it's about trying to solve our financial difficulties by concentrating on taxing those who can most afford it."

The ideas behind the campaign are both morally disturbing and practically dangerous. They are morally disturbing because we rely on the principle that individuals and companies are forced to pay the tax they are legally required to and no more. We plan our lives based on the rules of the game and those rules determine tax liabilities. I don't want to live in a society where government officials can ignore the law and decide for themselves that you cannot take advantage of something the law says you can. I don't want the sort of society where it is left to vigilantes to decide on the guilt and punishment of a defendant, nor one where it is left to political activists to determine someone's tax bill.

But it's not just the moral issue. UK Uncut need to wake up to the reality of the situation we are in. Hiking up already high taxes is not the answer to our giant deficit. Before tomorrow's events, protesters should read the Adam Smith Institute think piece on why tax and spend makes us all poorer, the TaxPayers' Alliance report "Can tax increases solve the United Kingdom’s public finance crisis?" and then Matthew Sinclair's book "How to cut public spending and still win an election".

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