The Tax Gap, who is right? The Tax Journal assesses Gauke v Murphy

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The Tax Journal is a serious UK professional tax journal, and today it has published an article looking at the tax gap, written in the light of recent comments by David Gauke, the UK's Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury on this issue and my work.

As the Tax Journal cautiously concludes:

As the analysis below illustrates — and Murphy accepts — his methodology in relation to corporate tax avoidance produces an estimate which inevitably includes an element of ‘legitimate’ tax planning.

On the other hand, HMRC accepted that they may not be identifying all ‘tax risks’, suggesting that the two sides may not be as far apart as the headline figures suggest.

That's obvious. It's all down to methodology. H M Revenue & Customs include in their estimate of the direct tax gap only those risks they can identify. That is, first they have to decide it is a risk - and as The Tax Journal acknowledges, I think there are more risks than they do. Second, they identify risk on the basis of the tax returns they get. But as data I will publish shortly shows, they're not getting vast amounts of the data that they are due. In that case they're bound to underestimate the risk.

In that case I refute David Gauke's claim that I exaggerate this issue. Far from it: I fear he understates it.

I argue for a macro analysis of the loss - a top down approach based on company accounts and also on macro analysis of the economy as a whole. The result is bound to be different - my sample base is broader for a start.

But you decide it. My case is here and here. HMRC's here. And the Tax Journal give you the chance to vote, here.

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