Leader – Taxpayers have rights as well

Governments, particularly on what used to be called the left, tend to overlook the real nature of taxation.

In all the talk about the uses to which the money will be put, politicians ignore the fact that they are talking about legalised theft.

People pay taxes whether they like it or not. The powers of the Inland Revenue to seize an individual’s money are far more draconian than those granted to almost any other arm of the state. Imagine the outcry if the police were empowered to seize the assets of suspects before they had even been charged.

Of course, most citizens accept the implicit contract that underlies the payment of tax. We pay taxes to live in a civilised society, protected from invaders by the armed forces, safe to walk the streets thanks to the forces of law and secure in the safety net of the health and social services.

To New Labour, tax is not just a necessity but a moral duty too. Avoiding payment of every last penny is a crime against the poor and the needy. Hence this week’s publication of the general anti-avoidance rule. The decision to restrict the GAAR to corporate taxpayers is welcome. The tone of the document is reasonable.

But the profession must be vigilant to ensure that the rights of those who are taxed are not sacrificed in the drive to stop avoidance.

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