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Thursday 21 June 2012
Is tax avoidance really immoral?
Tax is not a moral issue, it is a legal obligation. To describe tax avoiders, acting within the law, as immoral, is insulting and intellectually slipshod. The Chancellor of the Exchequer should learn to be a little more precise in his choice of words.
By taking advantage of laws made by other people, Jimmy Carr was only doing what generations of British wealthy people have been doing ever since tax was invented. That is how they have kept and expanded their wealth down the years. So the gratuitous insult is particularly rich (no pun intended) coming from Cameron and Osborne, two rich posh boys.
It is not beyond the wit of man to create a tax system which does not have loopholes in it through which the wealthy can squirrel away their money. But no British government would ever do it. It would miss the point of the very existence of the British government, and particularly this one, which is to govern the country on behalf of the rich, at the expense of the many.
We hear a lot about George Osborne clamping down on tax avoidance. But maybe what is required, following the revelations about the K2 offshore scheme, is less hiding behind confidentiality and more openness by HM Revenue and Customs about the use of legal but artificial tax avoidance schemes by wealthy individuals and multinational companies.
Do these people really prefer artificial tax saving schemes to paying their due share of tax to the UK government? How do they feel about a few extra deaths in the armed forces or UK hospitals because of the lack of resources arising from underfunding due to their tax-avoidance exploits? I suggest Mr Osborne brings public opinion and ethics to bear on this invidious tax-avoidance industry.
Before David Cameron instigates an investigation into Jimmy Carr's financial affairs, we need to see both his and George Osborne's tax returns and full details of their financial affairs, including their family businesses. That way we will know that they themselves are squeaky clean.
Busy multi-millionaires usually have accountants looking after their affairs, including tax returns, and those accountants would be failing in their duties if they did not take advantage of every possible legal avenue to reduce their clients' tax bills.
Port Solent, Hampshire
I object to Matthew Norman's sideswipe at the self-employed (20 June). I am an electrician and last financial year earned the princely sum (net) of about £7,500. Yes, I do pay my tax and I am not surprised to learn that some pay 1 per cent of their income.
I think we can do without lecturing by politicians about what is morally wrong, so soon after the expenses scandal.
Their exploits have been proved in court to be illegal, whereas the tax arrangements of a comedian (although slightly devious) were perfectly legal.
Failures forecast for House of Lords
Nick Clegg claims (Opinion, 21 June) that of the membership of the House of Lords "more than half" come from the ranks of retired or failed politicians. For the record, fewer than a quarter (23.2 per cent) of present members of the Lords are past members of the House of Commons.
Of course, under Mr Clegg's proposals, most Lords will be failed politicians, those who have failed to get into the House of Commons, failed to get into the devolved parliaments, failed to get into the European Parliament and failed to achieve local authority prominence, and who therefore run for the Lords as the last opportunity for a political career open to them.
Lord Lipsey, House of Lords
Nick Clegg wields the "democratically elected" sword against the House of Lords ("Chamber is affront to democracy", 21 June). That sword is remarkably flimsy.
Let us recall how the "democratically elected" in the UK depend on party machine selection processes, money targeted at marginal seats, dubious advertising campaigns and media pressures, resulting usually in the election of individuals without support of the majority of voters, on manifestos of mixed policies, many of which will be ignored by the resultant government, a government which then governs by whipping MPs into lobbies so that they support policies with which they often disagree, most of the MPs not daring to upset their party hierarchy for fear of blocking their political careers.
As a prime mover in the police investigation into the Bishop of Chester's assertion that gay people should seek psychiatric treatment to turn them straight, I was not surprised to see your exposure of the excessive Lords expenses claims of this and other bishops(21 June).
There is only one scripturally-based job description for a bishop, and that is to act as a pastor to clergy to enable them to support and teach others, which most bishops singularly fail to do.
It's long overdue for the Government to banish these pompous prelates from Parliament and force them to live in terraced houses on the minimum wage.
The Revd Dr David L gosling
A pill doctors should swallow
Dr Gillham, supporting the doctors' industrial action, wrote about his hard-working life (letter, 20 June). I too am a doctor (PhD Chemical Engineer, Cambridge). As but one example of my long hours, perhaps Dr Gillham would like to try 16-hour shifts, seven days a week for six weeks in monsoon India, supervising the start-up of a large petrochemical complex making some of the raw materials used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals.
This activity was enhanced with accommodation in mosquito-ridden construction huts with snakes and cat-sized rats and food from a mobile field kitchen. The site was in an alcohol-free state.
I wish the medical profession would give a little credit to how much novel science and engineering goes into the pills they prescribe. Even more thanks are due to the many equipment manufacturers, welders, electricians, plant operators and others without whose skills these novel process designs cannot be realised.
Dr Gillham says a mistake on his part may cause the death of a patient. This consideration is uppermost in the minds of the professions and trades responsible for design, construction, operation and maintenance of these installations which, if faulty, can cause illness, death and destruction on a massive scale.
Eric V Evans
May I suggest an obvious and peaceable way of settling two national discomforts? Tax big-money bankers by the the amount required to meet the proposed shortfall for doctors.
Kenneth J Moss
No pressure for student passes
You report that university lecturers are "pressured to make sure nobody failed exams" (report, 11 June). As a university teacher for 40 years, I never experienced any pressure from my administration to pass students I wanted to fail.
The problem is that the prevailing academic culture among teachers and students sets the "real" pass/fail borderline between an upper second- and a lower second-class degree. When asked what students have achieved if they are awarded a lower second or a third, most academics will describe how they failed to achieve a 2.1 or a first.
It is very rare for a student to be given a fail merely because they are stupid or ignorant. It is normally because they have failed to submit assignments on time, or to turn up for examinations.
The pressure that university administrations should apply is to ensure that students are awarded a degree only if they have largely fulfilled the published objectives of their programme of study (about 50 per cent of graduates), and that both teachers and students are motivated to achieve those objectives.
George Macdonald Ross
Social care needs funds urgently
Delaying reform of the social care system is no longer an option ("Plan to save care system is delayed", 20 June). As politicians continue to discuss the options, more elderly people are falling into the NHS at the point of crisis, which will cost the Government more in the long-term. The White Paper must be finalised as a matter of urgency, and politicians must agree a solution on how the system can be sustainably funded.
Chronic underfunding has blighted the sector for decades. Politicians must listen when charities, providers and councils unanimously call for the funding shortfall to be urgently plugged. We cannot wait until next year's Spending Review.
Managing Director, Bupa Care Services, Leeds
A safe bet for Germany?
The Champions League final is frequently billed as the richest game in European football. But, with an imminent European Championship quarter-final between Germany and Greece looming, that match could be made to pale into insignificance. All the Greeks have got to do is convince the Germans to go "double or quits" on the inconvenient debt business.
Fantasy of HS2
The M40 may be a scar (letter, 18 June) but it fulfils one of the main purposes of a transport system; it serves the local population. By the time this motorway leaves Oxfordshire, its junction numbers have reached double figures. HS2, in its dashes between London and Birmingham, would not stop at a dozen or so stations, enabling those living near by to abandon their cars and so decongest the motorway. It is a fantasy that M40 traffic will be much eased if HS2 is ever built.
Any advance on 16-times (letter, 21 June)? There were 16 annas in a rupee when Karachi Grammar School taught me that table 65 years ago, and I can recite it fluently still. It was useful in the UK too, while we used ounces and pounds. And – after a glass or two – I have been known to trot it out as a party piece, to a gratifying reception.
Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
Mouse and man
The attribution of inventions can sometimes be tricky: Thomas Edison did not invent the light-bulb, nor Xerox the mouse (report,19 June). Accolade for the latter belongs to Doug Engelbart, a scientist at Stanford Research Institute, who first demonstrated the mouse at a public presentation in San Francisco on 9 December 1968.
The Independent should know that there are readers of their prints who, like me, are sad old pedants. When they read, "It seems remarkable to both my partner and I ..." (Dad's Diary, 20 June) they will immediately stop reading, and turn to another page.
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