Anger at tax avoidance ignores overwhelming positive effect
I wish to challenge Eleanor Griggs’ attack on the Tories’ work for welfare scheme (“The Conservatives aren’t getting tough, they’re just being cruel”, 15/11/10).
My fundamental contention is a simple one. Why should people be paid for nothing? If I were to walk into a shop in Brighton tomorrow, or knock on the door of a house on my street, and ask for free money, I would not get it – and rightly so, because I have not earned it. Why then am I able to knock on the door of the state and receive what I ask for?
Over one million people in this country have received unemployment benefit for nine of the last ten years. In total, there are five million recipients. A ridiculous situation has arisen whereby some potential workers actually earn more by refusing to take employment. Not only are these people failing to contribute to society; they are actively taking from it, leaving if you with a negative balance. I cannot understand why any right-minded person would regard this situation as “fair” – and after all, isn’t this the primary buzzword of those on the left who object so strongly to the proposed changes?
Personally (and I am certain the vast majority of taxpayers agree) I am glad to see that the new government has decided to take a more sensible approach. Even if one ignores completely the argument that the chronically unemployed would “get used” to working under the new plans, the assertion that society should get value for money is surely unassailable.
I would also like to challenge Eleanor’s protest against “tax dodgers”. Firstly, one should note that there is little similarity between one who avoids tax and one who takes unemployment benefits. Whilst one is endeavouring to keep the fruit of his labours, the other seeks to get something for nothing, as things stand at least. Furthermore, a distinction must be drawn between “tax evasion” and “tax avoidance”. The former is the act of unlawfully concealing income or otherwise failing to pay the tax one legally owes. The latter involves lawfully retaining money that one has earned by exploiting loopholes – which, understandably, makes some people angry. I would point out, however, that untold amounts of ordinary people avoid tax when they create a will, for example. Naturally, critics don’t seem to mind when one of “us” avoids tax. Instead, the axe must apparently fall on the most economically productive members of society.
Let us take Eleanor’s example of Sir Philip Green. Yes, he does avoid some tax using lawful means. But it is blatantly inflammatory to take this fact out of context and ignore the overriding good that he does. Despite his aforementioned avoidance tactics, he is still contributing tens of millions of pounds to the state purse in personal income tax (and hundreds of millions in corporation tax) annually. He is also a self-made entrepreneur who employs over 45,000 British workers. In arguing their case, the left as a whole (and Eleanor in this instance) conveniently ignores the overwhelmingly positive effect that high-earners have on us all. I won’t address the immature insult addressed to Tories at the end of her article, except to say that if it is discriminatory to make people work for their money, it is doubtless also discriminatory to punish people who do work by means of a higher tax bill.