There is nothing wrong with tax avoidance.

Reading about the whole Jimmy Carr tax hoo-hah today I came across an online remark where he was called a “parasite”. Now, this caught my eye, because even if he had just paid 1% tax on £4 million quid, which are the figures being bandied about, he would have paid £40,000 in tax. That is more than most people pay in tax, and certainly more than he probably received in state services, so here’s my question: where exactly is he being a parasite? By being a very successful comedian? By making a lot of money selling tickets and books and DVDs? That’s being a parasite?

Let’s be honest here. There’s a section of our society that just don’t like people being successful and certainly not well rewarded, and where being rich, regardless of how hard you worked, is just not acceptable. In fact, in their eyes, you must have done something dodgy to acquire your wealth because they cannot seem to imagine any possible way that hard work would generate wealth. Which tells us a lot about what sort of people they are.

Of course, that’s not to say that Jimmy Carr has not done himself any favours. Like those celebrities who lecture people about their carbon footprints as they board their private jets, you can’t have a go about the rich not paying higher taxes whilst you, a rich man, are trying to avoid paying high taxes. It just won’t wash.

The funny thing is, if any comedian were to openly defend legal tax avoidance, that is, defending the right of every citizen to legally reduce the amount of money they give to the government, I don’t think the public would mind. There are a lot of people who believe that they can spend their money better than the government can spend it on self awareness courses for lesbian badgers in hats. Every single taxpayer in this country takes advantage of legal tax avoidance in one form or another. Many of them have no problem engaging in the illegal kind too. But what is not acceptable is saying one thing and doing something else.

As for what rate of tax he should pay, I always ask people to tell me what rate you think someone earning 10k less than you thinks you should pay. We are very good at telling other people what rate they should pay, but no so good at letting others decide what is fair in our case.

4 thoughts on “There is nothing wrong with tax avoidance.

  1. My father used to call this feeling people get that they don’t want others to succeed “the village mentality” which he saw popping up sometimes growing up in Lebanon. Someone “getting too big for their britches” by succeeding would immediately become the subject of rumor and envy. It’s an ugly thing when ones’ peer group is small and family ties are such that one never really leaves connections behind for good, even when they emigrate.

  2. This is very well put. Every society has this very same dynamic going on as well: there are those who don’t like some feature fo the social compact, and decide that their preferred policy can somehow come into being by way of badgering.

    It’s plainly clear that the rich bear the larger part of a tax burden, even when it’s a smaller propotion of their income. This is something broadly understood and protected even by all of the left except for the most utopian “progressives” for one simple reason: the poor aren’t hiring. We need someone to do the hiring, and governments don’t do a great job if it. Command economies, and even the north of England have proven that.

  3. It is the hypocrisy that will always get you in the end. If everyone did what Bono did we’d have massive cuts in ODA.

  4. Jason, curious about your views on Bono urging the Irish gov to give more development aid while,perfectly legitimately, arranging his own tax affairs to minimise his contribution to this endeavour.

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