TaxCorporate TaxAnyone for a trip to Lesotho?

Anyone for a trip to Lesotho?

How many pages of primary tax legislation does it take before Gordon Brown is told the system is ‘devastating’?

The Tories revealed last week that it was 8,300. Or, rather that was the
number it took for George Osborne to announce that the chancellor is now the
‘king of complexity’.

In fact the Tories were merely riding on the back of a World Bank/PwC survey
which places the UK second from last in the top 20 largest economies for tax
complexity.

This is odd because Osborne didn’t seem to comment on the fact that Britain
faired reasonably well when it came to tax burden – 35.4% of annual profits end
up as tax compared to 46% in the US and 52.8% in Japan.

So does tax burden trump complexity? For the sake of political expediency we
can only assume it does.

But it won’t help the case of Chris Spooner, HSBC’s head of financial
planning and tax, who announced recently that the bank could quit the UK purely
for tax reasons.

According to the World Bank there are 42 cheaper tax regimes than the UK
including Iceland, Lesotho, Cambodia and Zambia. OK, that’s churlish and there
are some others, but my point is that you choose a base for reasons that go
beyond the tax liabilities.

How about access to the world’s most productive financial market and
proximity to some of the most important and influential decision makers on the
international stage?

Wouldn’t George Osborne love to be one of those decision makers, with people
like Spooner to talk to? As devastating as Osborne says it is, he probably has a
good idea that the big companies are unlikely to go far, he just needs a bit of
pressure to lever on Gordon without causing an exodus. Don’t buy that? I hear
the weather is better in Lesotho.

Gavin Hinks is the editor of Accountancy Age

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