The fact that I regularly practice tax avoidance should make the average UK Uncut activist boil over with rage.
According to the moral framework that these people live by, where legality is no justification, I am deserving of a visit from the armed wing of the chattering classes any day now.
My crimes, to which I will plead guilty in front of the people’s court, include investing in an ISA and stopping smoking, both things that have helped me to lower the tax I pay.
If, after this quite public confession, I am left free from harassment to continue my tax avoiding ways I will wonder why. Surely the quantity of tax avoided isn’t the point. As they are keen on telling us, it’s about morals.
My personal financial planning is aimed at making me as well off as is possible and making the best use of what assets I have. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the vast majority of people currently removing Google Chrome from their computers and trying to find reliable information using Bing do the same thing. They’d be mad not to. So why then would they criticise a company for it?
Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt caused a storm in a teacup the other day when he stated that he was proud that his company’s accounting meant that they were able to legally dodge a considerable amount of the bullets fired by the taxman.
I’m rather proud of them as well. Google has revolutionised the internet. And as a consumer, that’s all I care about.
Not everyone seems to feel that way. Self-appointed haranguer of wealth creators Margaret Hodge immediately stepped up the rhetoric, accusing Schmidt of being “out of touch”. She further commented that “Google should recognise its obligations to countries like the UK from which it derives such huge benefits”.
Why must Hodge assume that the only benefit society gets from people doing business is that which they hand over in tax? If she wants to see evidence of social good, she could start with the 30,000 people Google employ or the value to humanity of the services they have pioneered.
Google is a prime example of how society benefits from companies and individuals pursuing their own interests, not in spite of it. If your morals dictate that good personal or commercial tax planning is wrong, then you’re arguing in favour of poorer individuals and a less developed nation.
The likes of Hodge, and to a lesser extent, Cable, who persist with the ‘loophole’ myth, that there are grey areas in tax code where bad companies distinguish themselves from the good ones, fail to understand that something is either legal, or it is not. So long as Google have kept it legal, then they have fulfilled their only obligation in a free market.
I await my knock on the door.
Neil Wilson is a town councillor in Newton Abbot, Devon and blogs at cllrneilwilson.com