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Yes, its all very funny, but now its time for the money
November 2, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

"The head of HM Revenue and Customs is to be grilled by MPs over revelations hundreds of tax evaders are to avoid prosecution and being named publicly after striking immunity deals with the taxman."

"Some 6,000 people were named on a list of secret account holders handed over two and a half years ago by Christine Largarde, who was then the French Finance Minister. She is now head of the International Monetary Fund.

But just one person has so far been convicted, with HMRC instead doing deals which recovers some of the tax owed but allows almost all of the tax avoiders to keep their identities secret."

Meanwhile, Costas Vaxevanis says: rich "untouchable".

And the Guardian has a list of tax-avoiding companies and the cost to HMRC.

Hilariously, the first link on Google was this company.

(The title is what Ian Hislop said on Have I Got News For You in regard to Starbucks, Amazon, Vodaphone, Tesco etc etc)
posted by marienbad (27 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just to add this, which is interesting in light of the recent BBC bias FPP, BBC News doesn't even have the story on the FP.
posted by marienbad at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something I don't understand in these cases, is that a deal normally consists of things being exchanged.

Here one party skips the majority of their debt and gets to remain anonymous. What have they given up in exchange for this clemency?
posted by Lorc at 9:03 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lorc: money?
posted by leotrotsky at 9:04 AM on November 2, 2012


What have they given up in exchange for this clemency?

The mere threat of having to recover said money by the courts apparently.
posted by Talez at 9:06 AM on November 2, 2012


But just one person has so far been convicted, with HMRC instead doing deals which recovers some of the tax owed

"Some"? So in exchange for a tax break they get to stay out of jail? It's a tempting offer
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:07 AM on November 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


The first few points from "The HMRC Vision" on its website:

Our Way
We understand our customers and their needs
We make it easy for our customers to get things right
We believe that most of our customers are honest and we treat everyone with respect
We are passionate in helping those who need it and relentless in pursuing those who bend or break the rules


No! I don't want some holistic and caring tax authority talking like it's a nursing home.

They should be total bastards.

Why should they believe most of their customers are honest when it comes to tax? A preposterous ethos for a tax authority.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 9:07 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is hardly new, but the person who the gov needs to go after is Dave Hartnett, the former Dir of HMRC, not this new person.
posted by parmanparman at 9:08 AM on November 2, 2012


HMRC came after me for 17p. Really.

From the Guardian article:

At the other end of the spectrum though, things are going swimmingly. The richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth increase by £155bn since the crisis began – more than enough to pay off the whole government deficit of £119bn at a stroke.

and

The total tax gap between what's owed and collected has been estimated by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK at £120bn a year ... Set them, for instance, against the £83bn in cuts planned for this parliament (including £18bn in welfare) – or the £1.2bn estimated annual benefit fraud bill – and you get a sense of what's at stake.
posted by dowcrag at 9:10 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is hardly new, but the person who the gov needs to go after is Dave Hartnett, the former Dir of HMRC, not this new person.

Some people did.

Moments later one of the diners interjects and demands: "You will depart immediately, before we set the dogs on you."

He's been hanging out with Montgomery fucking Burns everyone. Lifetime achievement for corporate tax planning? The award doesn't go nearly far enough.
posted by Talez at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


This whole thing makes me so mad I can hardly write about it coherently. The farce last year with Hartnett in front of the Public Accounts Committee demonstrated just how bad the situation is with regards to big tax dodgers. Firstly the committee accused Hartnett of illegally authorising sweetheart deals (which he denied), more-or-less accused Hartnett of lying to them (which he denied), then they threw their hands up and lamented the fact that there was nothing they could do about it.
The success of the revolving door of government advisors from the big 4 accounting firms has been such that they have not just captured the regulator, they have essentially destroyed it and divorced an entire sector of industry from public oversight.
posted by Jakey at 9:22 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, they're rich and white. I don't see a problem with it.

/MST3K, hamburger
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:23 AM on November 2, 2012


Ugh. I can totally see both sides of this (at least as argued in the article). The double-standard is disgusting and unfair, and yet if you really want to recover the tax money owed, this probably is the more cost-effective way to do it...

...at least, presuming that HMRC really would go after someone who refused to take the deal. I have to wonder how many wealthy evaders have called the HMRC's bluff.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2012


I have to wonder how many wealthy evaders have called the HMRC's bluff.

Going by the FPP, one.
posted by Talez at 9:41 AM on November 2, 2012


Well, I guess this is why so many people strive so hard to become obscenely wealthy: they know they will be afforded all consideration no matter what they do.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:44 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going by the FPP, one.

Well, that's kind of what I mean, though... how many others called the bluff and didn't get prosecuted at all? Of course, that's not exactly the sort of figure that would be publicized in a deal like this.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2012


Too Big To Pay Taxes
posted by DU at 10:05 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The curious thing is that the same company, HSBC, gleefully handed over my UK bank details to the United States government for merely visiting the country a few times. Now that I live in the US they do it as a matter of US law requiring that they do so in order to maintain their ability to do business in and with the U.S. Ditto for Canadian Banks. My entire financial history is served up on a plate to a foreign government at their mere request with absolutely no consideration for my privacy. Apparently only a certain class of people with a certain type of account is entitled to privacy respect by their international bankers and taxmen. Not me though. I'm a fucking pleb.
posted by srboisvert at 10:08 AM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


scaryblackdeath: "Ugh. I can totally see both sides of this (at least as argued in the article). The double-standard is disgusting and unfair, and yet if you really want to recover the tax money owed, this probably is the more cost-effective way to do it.."

Only very strictly in the short term. If the penalty for evasion is that you may have to pay back a portion of what you evaded, then there's no incentive to comply in future. In order to change the culture of evasion we need to sink the boot into a few now, pour encourager les autres.
posted by Jakey at 10:13 AM on November 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


The rich have always been, if not above the law, then at least subject to privileges out of the reach of the common people in Britain. This is part of the nation's values, inherited from the feudal era (which still continues in the nation's symbolism, in a mostly though not wholly symbolic sense; the Royal Family is a constitutional part of the state and Prince Charles has the power of veto over laws through secretive legal powers), and is evident from the moment you walk past the fast-track VIP lanes at Heathrow. It is also evident in Britain's libel laws, which were created to protect the reputations of the rich and powerful from allegations by any maids they may have raped or coachmen they may have had flogged.

If there is a figurehead for the power of privilege in Britain it is the ghoulish figure of Sir Jimmy Savile, ostensibly a cool rock'n'roll DJ turned beloved eccentric uncle, though in reality, a brazen and calculating sexual predator. He operated over decades, preying on his victims quite blatantly, even having hospitals reserve bedrooms for him to molest them in, and all the while cultivating connections with political figures and building up the reserves of wealth that protected him. People in the hospitals to which he had carte blanche knew what was up when he brought young girls in at 1am, though thanks to his connections and England's libel laws, they also knew that saying anything would be at best ineffectual and at worst personally ruinous to them. And so, he preyed on generations of innocents like some kind of English Dracula, going to his grave a free man, with the truth only emerging a few years later.
posted by acb at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I sometimes wish I'd been a greedy, ruthless, cheating bastard this past few decades. Apparently crime pays very well, and there are no longer any meaningful consequences when caught. Being good was, in retrospect, foolish of me.

My advice to parents: teach your children to be rat bastards. It'll serve them well.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The head of HM Revenue and Customs is to be grilled ...

Yummy. Goes well with chutney.
posted by ericb at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2012


In order to change the culture of evasion we need to sink the boot into a few now

Definitely a good argument. Not knowing what the actual numbers are, I don't know what the cost-effectiveness analysis of deal-vs-prosecutions really was.

As has been pointed out repeatedly in the US since 2008, the worst part about how the financial crisis was handled (regarding its perpetrators) was that nobody went to jail. If we saw a few of the big financiers to go to no-shit-really-prison, it would probably lead to a significant culture shift... not enough to fix all problems everywhere, certainly, but it'd make a difference.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:27 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The double-standard is disgusting and unfair, and yet if you really want to recover the tax money owed, this probably is the more cost-effective way to do it...

I think part of the equation is missing here. By paying to prosecute these tax frauds, the government would not only be recovering the money from these individuals. They would also be discouraging future tax fraud.

Accountants will be less likely to advise fraud if there is a high likelihood of prosecution.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:34 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When likelihood of prosecution approaches 100% I believe instances of avoidance drop dramatically.
They reach zero when the likelihood of defenestration approaches 100%
posted by fullerine at 10:41 AM on November 2, 2012


Ugh. I can totally see both sides of this (at least as argued in the article). The double-standard is disgusting and unfair, and yet if you really want to recover the tax money owed, this probably is the more cost-effective way to do it...

You could have a halfway house. They pay back part of the tax, and are not prosecuted. But as part of the deal they have to accept their name and face being put up on giant billboards in every city, and the fire brigade, ambulance service etc are allowed to laugh and hang up the phone on them if they ever call.
posted by reynir at 11:02 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I had a similar idea: Starbucks doesn't pay tax so they can't call the police, so we can smash them up with impunity. And even if the filth arrive, we can say "we pay your wages, they don't." Although I doubt that will work.
posted by marienbad at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2012


Happens in the US as well, 'lest we forget the IRS-UBS amnesty deal. Turn yourself in 1%, and pay a small penalty, and Uncle Sam will cover it up.

This program, the the existence of Swiss bank accounts, and the curious refusal to release tax returns, fuel speculation that Romney was one of them. (This isn't an unknowable. A simple release of tax returns would put this speculation to rest.)

Personally, I think he is a scofflaw, though I full admit I have nothing to back that up than suspicious behavior and persistent rumors.
posted by robot_monkeys at 1:35 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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