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Kevin-reed-jan-2012-80x80 Moderator

Kevin Reed

Moderator

Moderator

It's been an eventful, thought-provoking, and interactive week of debate. Such a close call demonstrates what a difficult issue tax avoidance is to compartmentalise...

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Closing Statement

Proposer Richard-murphy-80x80

Richard Murphy

Chartered accountant and director, Tax Research UK. Founder, Tax Justice Network

Defending the motion

Thankfully we still live in a broadly compassionate democratic society. And that's exactly why tax avoidance is now being condemned right across the mainstream political spectrum...

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Opposer Stephen-herring-80x80

Stephen Herring

Tax partner, BDO

Against the motion

We must prevent the UK from being viewed as a country where complying with tax laws is insufficient as additional arbitrary, ill-considered and politically motivated hurdles must also be met...

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Chris-fry-80x80 Kevin-reed-jan-2012-80x80

Kevin Reed

Editor, Accountancy Age/Financial Director

Moderator

Where the government gives you legislation that leaves it open for you to make a choice, does 'right' and 'wrong' come into it?...

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Rebuttals

Proposer Richard-murphy-80x80

Richard Murphy

Chartered accountant and director, Tax Research UK. Founder, Tax Justice Network

Defending the motion

All opinion is a matter of judgement, and all judgement is based on moral codes: the reality is that those claiming morality should be kept out of tax are simply in denial about the law, objectivity and the nature of decision making...

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Opposer Stephen-herring-80x80

Stephen Herring

Tax partner, BDO

Against the motion

Mr. Murphy's opening statement acknowledges that there are grey areas of uncertainty but does not recognise that it has always been the role of the tax courts to determine what Parliament intended...

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Chris-fry-80x80 Kevin-reed-jan-2012-80x80

Kevin Reed

Editor, Accountancy Age/Financial Director

Moderator

Avoiding tax, where the law is unclear, leaves you with a moral choice: to cheat, or not, said Richard Murphy in his opening statement. Stephen Herring said that much of the grey area will be so, well, grey that there will be inevitable differences of opinion as to whether the correct tax treatment has been achieved. This in itself isn't abusive or 'cheating'...

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Guest Phase

Pinsent-masons-ray-mccann-80x80 Chris-fry-80x80

Ray McCann

Partner (non-lawyer), Pinsent Masons

Guest

Richard and Stephen present what are, on the surface, very opposing viewpoints. At their core, however, both arguments revolve around the question of choice. Richard attacks the choices made by some taxpayers and a perceived lack of morality in these choices. Stephen dismisses this and seems to see no moral dimension in tax at all.

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Opening Statements

Proposer Richard-murphy-80x80

Richard Murphy

Chartered accountant and director, Tax Research UK. Founder, Tax Justice Network

Defending the motion

Let's be clear what tax avoidance is in this case. It's about working in the grey area of uncertainty where the law is unclear. So you can't claim it's legal, because no one knows that. Instead it's about exploitation of uncertainty to free-ride the system...

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Opposer Stephen-herring-80x80

Stephen Herring

Tax partner, BDO

Against the motion

It is a more achievable task to define what is abusive than to define what amounts to tax avoidance in contrast to acceptable tax planning. Both terms are highly dependent upon the political perspectives of the commentator...

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Chris-fry-80x80 Kevin-reed-jan-2012-80x80

Kevin Reed

Editor, Accountancy Age/Financial Director

Moderator

The main bone of contention appears to be that large corporates and well-to-do individuals appear to have a lower tax burden than those less-well off - mainly through using experts to skip around legislation.

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About this debate

Accountancy Age is delighted to present its first 'Debate'.

The tax avoidance debate, sponsored by YourMoney.com, will look at the heart of the matter: What is tax avoidance, and where is the line drawn between legitimate tax planning and unreasonable, unfair strategies that starve the government's coffers?

Two of the foremost voices on tax, Tax Justice Network founder Richard Murphy and BDO tax partner Stephen Herring, will post their opposing views on the issue - with you voting on who has won the debate.

The debate is an interactive forum where the audience can discuss important topical issues, using an ‘Oxford-style' debate, across the course of a week.

There are five main protagonists:

The Proposer: In this debate, Tax Justice Network founder Richard Murphy proposes that tax avoidance is unacceptable.

The Opposer: In this debate, BDO tax partner Stephen Herring suggests that there is room for legitimate, non-abusive, tax planning.

The Guest: Our expert ‘guest', Pinsent Masons' Ray McCann, gives his opinion - independent of the proposer and opposer - on the second day of the debate.

The Moderator: Accountancy Age editor Kevin Reed will act as moderator for the debate, providing further thoughts and background to the issue being discussed, as it progresses.

You: The audience can interact with the debate at every stage. As the debate progresses day-by-day - which will include further statements from Murphy and Herring - a live online comment section will appear for you to give your opinion and discuss the debate with other audience members. You can vote at any point when the debate is live to determine an overall ‘winner' - and you can change your mind as many times as you want until the debate closes.

The debate begins on Monday 14 January, and runs until Friday 18 January. The whole debate will remain archived on the site to view.

PS. Many thanks to Richard Murphy and Stephen Herring for taking the lead roles over the week, plus Ray McCann for his guest comment. And thanks for taking part in the voting (nearly 950 of you), and your comments - which were generally sensible and well-argued.