It’s not that I support tax evasion; I don’t. Clever schemes to avoid paying tax in one jurisdiction by transferring the transactions to another are at the least immoral, and from some reports, may even be illegal. But are immorality and illegality the same as evil? Evil suggests something much more deliberately malign to me.
Killing people – now that would be evil. Building and possessing weapons of mass destruction, or supporting and acquiescing in such – now that would be evil in my book. (And, purely coincidentally, would put most members of the said Commons committee higher up my list of evil-doers than Google.) But using the letter of the law to avoid paying tax doesn’t seem to be in the same league to me.
It made a good headline, though; which was probably all that it was ever intended to do. Publicly castigating the bosses of such companies is great fun, and attracts attention to the castigators. But I can’t help feeling that our legislators would be better occupied simplifying and strengthening the laws under which such companies operate rather than engaging in witch hunts. To say nothing of ensuring that the authorities prosecute through the courts when breaches of the law are discovered.
Expecting capitalist companies to do other than maximise the profits of capitalists by every means that they can is unrealistic. It’s what they’re there for. Enriching themselves at our expense is what capitalists do; the evil is in the system rather than in the individuals.
PS – Another thing to emerge from last week’s news on tax avoidance was that Amazon paid less in taxation than it received in government grants. Am I the only one to be wondering how on earth we can be in a position where a company making billions in profits is getting grants at all? In this case, it’s the Scottish Government paying them an incentive to build a new distribution centre in Dunfermline; but presumably similar incentives were paid for the centre in Swansea. We’re paying grants to companies to establish themselves here and then transfer all their profits and taxes elsewhere, in effect.
It makes for an interesting comparison with the call by Iain Duncan Smith a few weeks ago for pensioners who don’t ‘need’ the benefits they’re being paid to give them back. What about capitalist companies which don’t ‘need’ the grants they’re receiving?