Friday, 13 February 2009

It is good to pay tax

Some years ago my mother was cold called by a financial adviser. The conversation went something like this:

"Hello, can I help you pay less tax", he said
"No, I'm not interested" replied my mum
"No, really, I can save you money" he continued
"No thank you" said my mum
"Please, just give me 10 minutes of your time and I can prove that I can help you pay less tax."
"No, you don't understand" explained my mum. "Its not that I don't believe you. But I'm a socialist and I believe in paying my taxes"
Quick as a flash the adviser came back "Perhaps I can help you pay more taxes?"

My mother declined this kind offer but her attitude, believing paying taxes was part of being a responsibile member of society, is all too rare nowadays.

When we tendered for a new auditor in the summer the main focus (even obsession) of nearly all the accounting firms who presented was how they would help me avoid paying my tax. All I wanted to know who would do my audit best and give good business advice.

Over the last two weeks the Guardian has shown the extent of tax avoidance among the UK's leading companies. Many of these make much of their corporate social responsibility. But theya re exposed here as complete hypocrits. While they spend a few million on the local community, they go to great lengths to avoid paying hundreds of millions, if not billions, in tax.

And you can be sure that the bankers wallowing in their millions in bonuses would have found a hundred-and-one ways to avoid paying the proper level of tax on it.

One of the principle social responsibilities of any business is to pay the tax that enables the health service, the education system, the country's infrastructure and much more besides.

So I hope I can live up to my mother's example. And I hope one day tax avoidance will be as illegal as tax evasion - doing a lot of our leading (and supposedly socially responsible) consutancies out of a major source of business.

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