Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Both Richard Bilton and Matthew Yglesias discuss Le Monde's reporting on HSBC's active participation in widespread tax evasion. And James Bloodworth rightly argues that we should see tax avoidance as socially unacceptable even if governments fail to do their job in ensuring that everybody pays their fair share:
Indeed, who wouldn’t want to be tax efficient?

The answer very much depends on what sort of society you want to live in. Were the question phrased more honestly – i.e. bearing some relation to what the consequences of being ‘tax efficient’ are – I suspect the answer would be rather different. After all, lessening your tax bill through financial acumen may be satisfying from a purely self-interested point of view, but depriving cancer patients of otherwise affordable medical treatment, or preventing a dementia sufferer from getting the care they require in old age – both of which are consequences of depleted treasury coffers – hardly cover a person with glory. To deploy the well-known phrase: taxes are what we pay for civilized society.
The law is the most important tool in tackling tax evasion, but the point about tax avoidance is that it often takes place within the law. The law must be tightened where possible, certainly, but a public shift in the way tax avoidance is viewed also needs to take place. Tax avoidance, either by companies or individuals, is as anti-social as drink driving, and like getting behind the wheel in a state of inebriation it can have devastating consequences. The left shouldn’t be shy in pointing that out.
[- Update:And Polly Toynbee points out that poor enforcement and minimal penalties only encourage tax evasion on the part of the less-scrupulous.]

- Meanwhile, Brian Stewart reminds us that any immediate reaction to corporate wrongdoing will quickly be reversed - with the Cons' willingness to go soft on bribery proving just the latest example. But Tim Stacey challenges the perception that we should defer to the wealthy based on the theory that their riches reflect merit rather than an extreme focus on limited self-interest.

- Jordan Brennan studies the connection between larger and more stringent trade agreements, and the growth of corporate power at the expense of the public.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall notes that Canada's economy is largely stalled due to the Cons' failed plan to turn unstable resource industries into our lone economic engine. And George Eaton offers an example from the UK which should be instructive in Canada - as economic projections show better outcomes under a government which is willing to borrow money to make needed investments, rather than one which obsesses over balanced budgets rather than human well-being during a downturn.

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