Anyway, back to the story. I wanted to talk to Richard about an idea in the very last paragraph of The Great Tax Robbery: his suggestion that we needed to “monitor systematically multinationals’ tax payments and actions (or inactions) against tax avoidance: TaxWatch perhaps”. I agreed passionately.
And so Mr. Richer did indeed start the funding for TaxWatch.
The same Mr Richer who sold his company – entirely and wholly legally – without incurring a tax bill for himself nor, I think I’m right in saying, even creating an asset which would then be subject to inheritance tax. Although I may well have misunderstood that last.
It tracks all forms of tax abuse and works very hard on what to do about it, and has started a national discussion on what tax avoidance actually is (HM Revenue & Customs’ definition is “bending the rules of the tax system to try to gain a tax advantage that parliament never intended”, which most of us don’t seem to realise).
TaxWatch being run by Richard Brooks, the Private Eye guy who entirely made up the idea that Vodafone faced a £6 billion tax bill, that there was some “deal” which led to a much lower bill actually being paid. When Vodafone was, in fact, simply obeying the European Union’s laws on the taxation of subsidiaries.
But then one man’s entirely legal and moral obeying of the tax laws shades into tax avoidance when done by someone else, doesn’t it?