BusinessCorporate FinanceHypocrisy in the highest places

Hypocrisy in the highest places

Labour politicians have long argued that it is unforgivable for the rich to be able to avoid tax when the poor and needy must pay it.

On this issue, at least, there is much to commend in the party’s approach.

Which is what makes David Blunkett’s own tax arrangements so unforgivable.

Blunkett has in the past proved careless in his financial affairs, involved
in investments which in his ministerial role he could have influenced. The
latest revelation – that he has channelled earnings from his memoir into a
company to avoid paying income tax – is extraordinary.

He worked for a government that rails against tax avoidance in all its forms.
Since Gordon Brown became chancellor, the party and civil servants at HM Revenue
& Customs have sought to vilify the accounting profession for its
involvement.

Tax lawyers and tax advisers have been hauled before the Treasury and given a
stern lecture. HMRC has sought to pin criminal charges on the most aggressive
tax avoiders, to send a message to the industry about the fineness of the line
between evasion and avoidance.

Blunkett himself spent last week saying there was a ‘strong argument for
reshaping inheritance tax and clamping down on the mechanisms used by the rich
to avoid paying it’. Likewise the mechanisms to avoid income tax that the rest
of us have to pay, one might add.

It was a theme of More4’s drama about Blunkett that he’d left behind his
roots and become part of the moneyed classes whose privileges he so deplores.
Blunkett’s hypocritical use of tax avoidance schemes illustrates better than
anything else the truth of More4’s charge.

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