It’s been an extraordinary few days.
Amazon’s tax was exposed. They’ve done nothing illegal, of course, but their conduct has clearly been judged unacceptable.
The tax affairs of politicians have become issues of public debate – Ken and Boris have guaranteed that in perpetuity. The move to tax transparency in the public domain has, I suspect, become unstoppable. Polly Toynbee argues for it universally this morning. I have sympathy, but until now have always thought it a step too far.
The use of companies without obvious commercial reason, but with a resulting benefit in terms of tax paid has also entered public debate – again thanks to Ken Livingstone. Will that issue now go away?
And now another backlash to Osborne’s hapless budget, which has resulted in his admission that tax avoidance is vastly bigger than HMRC have ever previously advised is set to propel legal but ethically unacceptable tax abuse centre stage for time to come.
Now I don’t want to count chicknes; that’s always unwise, and yet this has the feeling of being a tipping point – a time after which attitudes change, irreversibly.
I have argued since 2008 that tackling tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax paid late – a combined total of £120 billion – provides a radical alternative to the chosen cuts agenda. Now that is becoming increasingly obviously possible.
I’m nit saying we could solve all issues by collecting tax – quite clearly the weakness in investment and the lack of demand are both key economic issues to be addressed. But the cuts agenda has always been wrong when simply collecting tax due has always been the alternative.
Will we now see the investment needed to achieve that result?