Like most people I think rich individuals and companies should obey the tax laws in the places where they earn and spend. They should be pursued and prosecuted where they knowingly falsify their declarations, deliberately conceal income and assets that should be taxed or set up complex arrangements with the express purpose of changing jurisdictions in ways which are unlawful. Tax evasion is against the law and has to be tackled, as governments seek to do. If the Panama papers do reveal tax evasion rather than avoidance their leaking should help speed prosecutions of those concerned.
Practically all the MPs currently in full cry against tax avoidance, the legal reduction of tax bills whilst declaring your affairs honestly, avoid tax themselves. They are members of the MPs pension plan, a legal scheme to avoid tax and defer tax on a part of their income. The 25 % tax free lump sum they can draw on retirement means complete tax avoidance on those contributions and subsequent gains and income in the fund. The money drawn out as pension may be taxed at a lower rate than the tax relief they got on saving the money in the first place. All income and capital gains on their savings in the fund are accumulated tax free.
I suspect many of those MPs quick to condemn also have savings in an ISA. The sole purpose of an ISA is to avoid tax on interest, dividends and capita gains on your savings. Anyone who holds an Isa is not in a strong position to condemn tax avoidance or tax planning.
Labour and Lib Dem MPs helped set up complex financial and tax regulation in the UK between 1997 and 2015 which included new rules to train and regulate financial advisers. Under their system Financial Advisers are trained to include tax planning as part of good advice. An Ifa who did not tell a saver of the tax advantages of holding savings through an Isa would not be meeting normal professional standards. An IFA should also ask clients about future pension provision and see if they should be using their tax free allowances for pension savings.
Are these critics of tax avoidance now saying all this is wrong? If so do they now support the abolition of these common tax saving schemes? Tomorrow I will look at the vexed issue of overseas investments.