Finally, Richard understands!

There is a spirit of the law, we know it, it is widely acknowledged, it is interpreted, appropriately, by the courts, and people have a duty to try to comply with it.


There are two positions regarding tax. There is obeying the law upon tax and there is not obeying the law upon tax.

We can make up all sorts of lovely names, tax compliance, avoidance, abuse, dodging, evasion.

But when it comes down to it we have a system which determines which of the two possible categories tax behaviour falls into:

interpreted, appropriately, by the courts

And that\’s it.

If the courts say that every Englishman has an absolute right to order their affairs so as to reduce their tax bills then ordering your affairs so as to reduce your tax bills is obeying the law of the land on tax.

If the courts say that paying your staff in fine wine is not obeying the law on national insurance then that is not obeying the law.

At which point Ritchie\’s entire campaign falls flat on its face.

We need a system to determine which behaviour is obeying the law and which is not. We have such a system, the Law Courts.

Game over, end of.

Tax planning, tax compliance, tax abuse, tax avoidance, tax evasion, they all, once seen by the courts, collapse down into either obeying the law or not obeying the law.


15 thoughts on “Finally, Richard understands!”

  1. Isn’t this a just a touch naive?

    Compare, for example, with BP’s liabilities in the Gulf after the spill. In theory, these were legally limited to… $75m? I forget what, exactly. But the US govt made it quite plain that BP would be in very deep trouble if it tried to do that, so BP “voluntarily” paid up.

    So is/isn’t against the law isn’t the end of things.

  2. I went and read one of Ritchie’s articles you linked to in a previous post, and was strongly struck strongly again by my perception that the problem is that you’re talking about entirely different things.

    You’re trying to talk about economics. He isn’t. He’s an old fashioned Christian Socialist, and he’s trying to talk about morals. So you’re talking past each other.

    It is the basic presumption of somebody with his conceptual schema that the market is in constant failure mode because it does not produce moral outcomes (as defined by his own moral code). You are talking about how markets work. There is no moral dimension to this.

    So one of his list of five things taxes are for is “to correct an incorrect market price” e.g. for tobacco or beer. Because in Ritche’s conceptual schema tobacco and beer are immoral products, they will always appear underpriced, so must be corrected by, people with correct morals, like Ritchie.

    Likewise, since paying taxes is moral, in Ritchie’s head anyway, any attempt to pay less tax is inherently immoral. The argument you are having about this is not really addressing the issue, it is a proxy argument about semantics. He is on a crusade to stamp immoral taxual behaviour, and you are an immoralist who is (in his deluded world) trying to encourage immorality. You may as well be arguing about prostitution with a Victorian vicar, and talking about how the market sets the right price for a hand shandy. The vicar simply isn’t interested in that, because he knows in his heart that hand shandies are evil and need to be eradicated.

    So this argument just can’t be resolved in my view. You really are having entirely different discussions.

  3. <emBut the US govt made it quite plain that BP would be in very deep trouble if it tried to do that, so BP “voluntarily” paid up.

    Which was completely without precedent and unlikely to be repeated. The US was lucky it was BP spilling the oil.

  4. @Ian B
    I am reminded of the quip by the Rev Sidney Smith who, on seeing two women arguing from opposite houses across a Glasgow alleyway, said, ‘They will never agree as they are arguing from different premises’.

  5. Ian B,

    You’re right, except the argument isn’t (as I see it) between economics and morality but rather, between law (and the power of the state) and morality.

    I think he is trying (rather clumsily) to find a ‘third way’ – to impose the force of law on something he finds immoral but which is not illegal (i.e. his distinction between ‘compliance’ and ‘avoidance’).

    He then uses the straw man of apartheid – just because its legal doesn’t make it moral. And it is this line of thinking that he uses to justify someone or other (citizen vigilantes, bureaucrats, whatever – he is vague) to do something or other (protest, harrass, even charge and convict – – again, he is vague) to another person who is acting within the letter of the law. I emphasise the ‘letter’ rather than the spirit of the law, given the latter just sends the argument around in circles and is then just used as an excuse by our vigilante friends to impose.

    I tried to engage him today on the spirit of the law applied to a couple of fairly basic tax scenarios. First he tried to palm me off, then he has now replied that it is complicated and he can’t do it.

    But he forgets the other side of the coin: the danger of allowing the state (or citizen A) to harrass another citizen B over something the bureaucrat (or citizen A) finds immoral but which is perfectly legal for citzen B to do. Exactly what Uncut have been doing.

    In short, he forgets that for better or worse, we live in a morally relative society where there are lots of opinions on what is moral on a range of subjects, including sex and even life and death.

    For example, what about divorcees who remarry whilst their first spouse is still alive. There are some in our community who would find this to be adultery and against the 10 commandments.

    I wonder whether Mr Murphy falls in that boat??? Is his current wife his first? Does anyone know?

  6. I think Ian B & Adrian have part of it but not the whole.
    Point is, Murphy’s not a Christian. If he was he’d have a perfectly good book, tried & tested over a couple of millennia, to hang his moral framework on. Murphy wouldn’t render under Caesar. He’d be tediously explaining the failings of the Empire as they nailed him up somewhere.
    He really should be a Marxist (the comedy writer not the three guys from the films) but Marxism’s passée these days so he’s trying to fathom out something for himself. Trouble is he doesn’t have a fraction of the intellectual capacity of old Karl & ends up in all these self contradictory cul de sacs.
    He really is a dangerous f*ck though. He’d make a good Soviet political officer. Or he’d be the clerk who suggested getting the prisoners to stack their clothes before entering the gas chambers.
    He’s a believer & they’re always the worst.

  7. @Ian B – you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think. He mentioned his Christianity in a video on youtube, and I thought very little of it, but now I see the connection. He has no respect for or understanding of the institution of law. People like Ritchie will never take over the courts as they wouldn’t pass the exams.

  8. I thijnk he qualified as an accountant at the same time as the woman who married him and her best friend. they set up a small practice and did really well. Then they fell out as partners do and now he is alone.

    Tim adds: As I understand it, his first wife was either the Deeks or Nolan in “Murphy Deeks Nolan”, the small accounting practice they had. I assume (but absolutely do not know) that this marriage breaking up is what led to the selling of the practice.

    He is married now, with young sons. His current wife is a GP. Now the only things I actually know here are that he was married to an accountant, his partner in the firm. And that he’s currently married to a GP.

    It’s possible that it’s the same wife who has retrained. But Occam’s shaving kit an all, A 50 ish man with children under 10 and a wife who has quite drastically changed professional careers: different wife is more likely.

  9. bloke in spain – Murphy used to make a big thing about being a Christian, and he’s written articles about how his Christian ethics guide his tax policy. A view of theology which I have challenged.

    He used to be a Quaker, but then switched to the Church of England.

    But I’ve not seen any explicit Christianity from him since he started working for the TUC.

  10. “He used to be a quaker

    …ah, that would explain it. The Quakers and other dissenters/non-conformists are the direct ideological descendents of Cromwell’s Puritans.

    Here he is talking about how he sees his work as promoting (imposing) his personal christian values. Couldn’t face watching it all, but he talks early on about how “what happens in finance centers does not reflect the christian principles that [he] believes are important”.

    IMV there’s a good argument that anglosphere socialism is far more christian socialist in heritage than marxists. Marxists believe that all bourgeois are thieves, christian sociliasts believe they are sinners that need moral correction and, crucially, that the poor are in need of salvation from corruption (beer and cigs, worldly consumerism, lack of spiritual virtue, etc).


    But he forgets the other side of the coin: the danger of allowing the state (or citizen A) to harrass another citizen B over something the bureaucrat (or citizen A) finds immoral but which is perfectly legal for citzen B to do.

    People like him don’t see that as a danger. They are moral absolutists, so cannot respect a morally relative (“live and let live”) society. As such, they see moral vigilantes like Temperance mobs with hatchets smashing up saloons as virtuous and that guides their idea of “protest”. He wouldn’t see harrassment by some mob opposing him as equivalent of course, (e.g. “protesting” outside his offices and preventing his work) because they are by definition sinners.

  11. On his blog yesterday he claims that something cannot be tax avoidance if its taxed in accordance with what the government wanted. As he attacks the UK’s nondom tax regime ad nauseum, I suggested that the nondom tax regime was one expressly created and permitted to continue by the UK government to encourage wealthy foreigners to come here. If the UK government didn’t want it to continue, then it would abolish it rather than looking at tweaking it. There is no suggestion whatsoever of it being abolished. Therefore, nondoms are taxed exactly as the government intended, and so nondoms cannot be avoiding tax, using Murphy’s very own words.

    Needless to say, he then tried to argue differently, but once again he showed the total inadequacies of his ridiculous arguments. I accept that he doesn’t like tax avoidance, and that is of course his right, but the legal arguments that he attempts to use to support his stance are made of sand. He’s just pi**ing in the wind and he’s totally out of his depth.

  12. With regards to Murph’s purported Christianity & for that matter the Quakers & a lot of the other moral crusaders, there’s not much Christianity in any of them.
    I’m not Christian but as far as I’m aware there’s nothing in Christ’s teachings on abstinence from drink, sex or much else. These people are more interested in imposing their personal crackpot ideas on everyone & hang a Christian label round their necks to validate themselves. Inquisition did the same thing. The tendency is there in all religious movements because religion can be used to leverage power. Current one’s the Religion of Peace(pbuh)

  13. Indeed. Christian Socialism as a movement is not the same thing as Christianity, it’s a label for those socialists and various cranks who claim to be motivated by faith.

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