Oxford Centre for Business Taxation and the Monaco Boys

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The Guardian reported yesterday on the habit of the “Monaco Boys” who live in that principality and work in the UK. Under the UK’s 90 day residence rule, which only counts nights in the UK as being a time of residence, it’s possible to be in the UK on 2 nights a week, or three days a week, for much of the working year and still be non resident.

This is a farce. Revision of this was put on the Treasury’s agenda in 2003. It’s a disgrace that no further progress has been made, and that the professional Institutes without exception argued for the continuation of the status quo, designed in the age of steamships. We now live in the Easyjet age to Nice (or, perhaps, private plane to Nice age). My submission to the Treasury is available on line.

As relevant to tax, one of those named as partaking in this jaunt is Wafiq Said, the arms dealer whose activities have attracted some attention. Despite questions raised he funded the Said Business School at Oxford University. The Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation is located at the school. I’m afraid I cannot disassociate the two; nor is my difficulty in accepting its objectivity helped by the fact that the Centre was launched with help from the 100 Group of FDs for the FTSE 100 - another group with some interest in reducing their tax burden in the UK.

Everything the Centre does has to be viewed in that light, including the appointment of Professor Mike Devereux as its new director, announced in the FT, by coincidence yesterday. Mike is an outstanding tax academic, don’t get me wrong. But I also fear he buys the conventional economics model. And that assumes profit maximisation is the goal of business activity and taxation management. Which is fine, except in most areas where business interacts with the community (health, safety, labour rights, child labour, wages, the environment, product liability, etc.,) it’s been accepted that these externalities require limitations on what was previously seen as profit maximising behaviour in the interests of the community. When will that be the case for tax, I wonder?