Accountants face an onslaught on their standing and integrity over the next two weeks which the whole profession must unite to resist. The government’s much-heralded crackdown on tax avoidance risks besmirching the good name of every accountant in the land in a way that would be unthinkable in any other profession.
Chancellor Gordon Brown is expected to use next week’s Budget to renew his attack on tax avoidance. In today’s political climate the effect will be to portray accountants as dishonourable folk who connive with the rich to defraud the taxpayer. Brown is likely to argue that collecting the tax now avoided would enable the government to solve many social problems, unsubtly implying accountants are to blame for unnecessary suffering.
But the profession should not let him get away with this slur.
What other profession would be treated in this way for doing its professional duty and offering impartial advice to its clients? Would ministers, many of them lawyers, suggest a solicitor who secures the acquittal of a guilty person was morally corrupt? Of course not, no more than anyone suggests a doctor recommending an expensive treatment is simply milking the NHS.
It is a measure of how little has been done by those who lead the profession to promote its public image that we are in this state at all. But even at this stage it is not too late for accountants to stand up for themselves against the slurs that will accompany the avoidance clampdown.
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