The Fair Tax Mark – Just What Is Tax Abuse Then?


We mentioned a couple of days ago that Timpson’s has been awarded – bought might be a better description really – the Fair Tax Mark. We also expressed a certain puzzlement at quite how this was done, given what is evident from the accounts.

One which subject a letter, or an observation if you prefer, from Andrew Carter, a tax practitioner with 31 years’ experience including 10 as a tax inspector:

The Fair Tax Mark implodes.

More remarkable evidence of the ‘fluidity’ of Fair Tax Mark director Richard Murphy’s views on tax avoidance is provided by his recent submission to parliament on tax evasion and avoidance.

In his submission he says that;

“Sometimes tax avoidance exploits differences between types of law e.g. exploiting company law to incorporate to reduce or defer a tax bill”

and that;

“tax justice campaigners now choose to ignore the distinction between [tax avoidance and tax evasion], suggesting it is not useful. They instead suggest that both should be called tax abuse”

So quite specifically, Murphy is saying that exploiting the differences between tax laws is tax abuse. For Murphy, the fact that something follows the letter of the law doesn’t stop it being tax abuse.

Contrast that, however, with Murphy’s response to the suggestion that John Timpson has avoided a possible Benefit In Kind charge by routing donations to his MP son’s administration costs through his company, Timpsons (who were recently awarded a Fair Tax Mark).

“Was it legal? Unambiguously so

If there was a BIK issue would we ever know? No: that’s not in the public domain and not a CT issue”

In other words, when it comes to awarding Fair Tax Marks, the possible exploitation of different taxes, of different tax laws, can be brushed to one side and ignored. As long as it follows the letter of the law, it’s OK.

Remember that Fair Tax Mark is a totally unofficial organisation that charges companies to get a FTM.

It could, perhaps, be possible to form the impression – this is purely an opinion of ours – that paying FTM a fee makes Murphy forget what he considers is and isn’t tax abuse.