The swing of the pendulum: tax avoidance in modern times

30 September 2016

Originally printed in Tax Journal on 30 September 2016.

Tax avoidance is now a headline-grabbing and career-threatening subject. But over seventy years ago, the highest court in the land told us that taxpayers are entitled to do anything legal to reduce their tax bill. How we have got to here from there is a journey driven by strong personalities reacting to major economic events, changes in tax rates and what until very recently was an ever growing tax avoidance industry.

Graham Aaronson QC (Joseph Hage Aaronson) presents a personal view of tax avoidance in the UK over the past 100 years, looking at the case law and legislation which developed in the first half century, and the social and economic context in which they evolved.


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Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK (Published in Thought Leaders 4 Private Client)

Advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. To compound the issue, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout prompted domestic governments to increase transparency in relation to investments held by wealthy foreign individuals (with a focus on oligarchs).

In the UK, in the context of the cost-of-living crisis, public opinion certainly seems to be in favour of increased accountability for high-net-worth individuals (eg, on 9 October 2022, 63% of Britons surveyed thought that “the rich are not paying enough and their taxes should be increased”).1

HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work; they are well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly considering the already extensive network of 130 bilateral tax treaties in the UK (the largest in the world).2 The UK was also a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.

This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and personal tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.

It should be noted that a somewhat piecemeal approach, with constant tinkering makes compliance difficult for the taxpayer and is often criticised for lacking the certainty that a stable tax system needs to thrive.

This article was first published with ThoughtLeaders4 Private Client Magazine

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