Accountants – purveryors of anti-social behaviour

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Accountancy Age published a letter from me today.

The letter as submitted said:

I note your report (October 12) on the future of tax avoidance. I am afraid
that many of the terms were too loosely used for the coverage to be
objective. For example, it was said that tax planning is the second oldest
profession in the world. That's not true. That's tax evasion. And it's
illegal.

And it was implied that tax planning would continue, as if that might be a
shocking revelation to the Revenue. It won't be. They're entirely happy
with tax planning. That takes place within the spirit of the law, and
anyone doing it can be sure that they have paid the right amount of tax and
no more, but as importantly at the right time and in the right country. I
really do not think Dave Hartnett is seeking to stop that. Nor is the Tax
Justice Network.

But if avoidance is the grey area in between the tax planning and
illegality (and term aggressive adds nothing in this context except to
express greater greyness) then Dave Hartnett is on his way to achieving his
aim of eliminating it because John Whiting is right, this is getting
harder. And the Tax Justice Network is firmly of the view that this should
be the case. We would only wish that a general anti-avoidance principle
might be added to the armoury of weapons available to stop the profession
(for it is they who promote this activity) abusing society in this way.

Anti-social behaviour is anti-social whether done by youths or people in
pinstripe suits. Tax avoidance is anti-social. It has to be stopped, and if
those perpetrating it will not see the error of their ways the law will
have to be changed so that they have no option but do so. As such the
profession should continue to expect attacks on its behaviour until it both
mends its ways and adopts the appropriate standards of ethical conduct
which it should promote in this area, but sadly does not. Ethical conduct
allows tax planning. But any appropriate code of ethics for accountants
should make it very clear that tax avoidance is, and always will be wholly
unacceptable.

I think most Age readers should get the point.