Jimmy Carr shows why it is time to publish everyone’s tax returns

A few months ago, during the furore about the tax returns of the London mayor candidates, I published a blog post saying that it’s time to publish everyone’s tax return.

The current furore about the tax affairs of Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow et al provides yet more evidence about why this would be the right move. Let’s be quite clear that Jimmy Carr didn’t break the law. His accountants used legal tax avoidance measures to minimise the tax that he had to pay. So the legal courts wouldn’t have succeeded in getting a single extra penny into the UK government coffers.

However, the court of public opinion has succeeded. It might have been legal, but it wasn’t seen by decent people to be right. That’s why simply publishing everyone’s tax affairs would be an effective way of helping to ensure that everyone paid their fair share.

The wealthy will always be able to afford clever accountants who will find ways of minimising tax. But those doing so would have to perhaps think twice and moderate their behaviour if everyone could look at see that their lifestyle and apparent wealth was out of kilter with the tax they were paying. People would still be free to do tax planning, but would have to be able to justify to friends, neighbours, co-workers and the public why they didn’t appear to be paying their fair share.

Nobody wants to pay a lot more tax than they need, but likewise nobody should pay a lot less than is fair. When you avoid paying tax you’re effectively robbing everyone – those who depend on the NHS, children in schools, the disabled who need support and the defence of our country to name but a few. You’re also effectively robbing off those that do pay their fair share as more needs to be taken from those that do contribute to the welfare of the country.

This isn’t going to work unless everyone does it. It wouldn’t be healthy to know everything about the tax affairs of one person, but nothing about the the next person. If everyone’s affairs are open it would rapidly begin to become of little interest to people. For those with nothing to hide then it shouldn’t be a problem. It will be an issue for those who don’t pay their fair share and it might even be one for those who pretend to earn more than they do. But getting people to be more honest wouldn’t be a bad thing would it?

2 Replies to “Jimmy Carr shows why it is time to publish everyone’s tax returns

  1. To publish tax returns means publishing income. That comes with lots of assumptions about worth, and before you know it all the measurement people are there and we’re all being judged by another artificial and judgemental metric. Nice idea in principle, but the law of unintended consequences strikes fear in my heart.

  2. richardswancott – I am a 35-year-old who runs his own PR agency in Stoke-on-Trent. Apart from working all hours of the day I like watching the Mighty Potters baffle the Premiership with long throws, English cricketers consistently salvage defeat from the jaws of victory, and reminisce about the Manchester bands of the 80s and 90s.
    Richard says:

    Can’t agree with that I’m afraid. It’s no-one else’s business what I or you or anyone pays in tax.

    Anyone would have done the same in Jimmy Carr’s position. 

    The real issue is the likes of Vodafone ducking out of paying £6bn in tax – why are people like Jimmy Carr vilified when the corporate giants get off scot-free?

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