Tax needs a rebrand

Tax avoiders

Before Google and Amazon, before Starbucks, before Vodafone there was Jimmy Carr

jimmy

The fuss over a hypocritical comedian’s use of a tax avoidance scheme sheds light on tax and our attitudes towards it. Why do we see tax as a necessary evil –  something to be avoided as much as possible? Where winners have smart accountants and losers pay the full rate?

How did we all lose sight of the big picture – that tax is vital, that it is a key underpinning of a healthy economy and a healthy society. When did tax become a game of ‘how much can I get away with’?

Tax is vital – without an effective tax system economies such as Greece collapse. Ineffective tax systems increase dependency on aid. Tax is complicated and hard to understand – different jurisdictions have bewilderingly different tax schemes, requiring global expertise to navigate.

Avoidance costs money – the more people like Jimmy abuse the system, the more controls, checks and policing is required to catch them. The global cost of patrolling non compliance or slipperiness is huge – and if we all played nicely, unnecessary.

Imagine that tomorrow we all thought differently about tax – recognized it for the positive force it can and should be, the underpinning of successful economies and societies.

And then imagine that we all played fairly and nicely – paying what was right and fair and ceasing to exploit (legal but unfair) loopholes.

More tax would be paid, the cost of policing would be less, economies like Greece wouldn’t collapse, developing markets wouldn’t need as many handouts.

We’d all be better off. Even Jimmy.

Time to change the way we all think about tax – time for a rebrand.

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