Questions for Bill Dodwell

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Bill Dodwell, head of tax at Deloittes UK ha suggested my work on the Tax Gap is 'just rubbish'. Well, it's a free country, and he has a right to his opinion.

He also has a right to his own particular use of the term tax avoidance, about which we clearly do no agree. His own remarkable use of it includes the claim that 'this is a relatively new term in the tax lexicon', which does make me wonder where he's been most of his career.

That's especially because later in the same article he suggests that 'I've no doubt that there is still some tax avoidance (although it's been greatly reduced by the change of atmosphere over the last few years, coupled with tax disclosure)'so implying that this new beast is already an historical anachronism.

For a man whose whole argument that my work is 'just rubbish' relies entirely on challenging my use of the term 'tax avoidance' this confusion about a term that has been in long term common usage, where that common usage would accord with the use I have made of it, is at the very least surprising. His use of the term is one of the issues I'd like to debate with him.

But there's another issue I'd like to discuss as well. That is this graph, produced from a completely objective analysis of the data published by the companies in the survey I undertook, showing the trend in effective UK corporation tax rates for the largest FTSE companies during the course of this century. Some of that data was audited by his firm. It has to be right.

You'll note the trend is strong, and downward, and produces effective rates way below any reasonable weighted average of the tax rates of the major populous states of the world where most of these companies are making most of their money because that is where their labour forces and customers are located.

What I'd like to know from Bill Dodwell is this:

1. Why is the effective rate so much lower than statutory rates?;
2. Why is the rate moving so markedly downward?
3. Why does he argue in this case that the tax burden is excessive and growing?
4. Does he know how this burden compares with that of UK companies trading solely in the domestic market, and if so will he publish the data?
5. How does he reconcile the difference between the rates shown?
6. What role do tax havens play in this difference, and if he claims there is none why is his firm in all the major and most of the minor tax havens in the world?
7. As a UK resident does he think this trend desirable, and why?

I'm looking forward to the debate.