@RichardJMurphy tries logic: not a pretty sight.

Dearie me:

My argument is that tax avoidance is seeking to get round the law. In my view tax avoidance is not and cannot be about doing things that are very clearly legally permitted, and even encouraged by parliament.

That\’s all of his arguments against tax \”avoidance\” exploded then for tax avoidance is clearly, by definition, what is allowed by law.

End of that campaign then.

And then we get an attempt at logic:

That’s astonishing stuff, and explanation for why every sane person must still have some reasonable worries about what a Labour government might, or might not do. What he’s saying – what a former senior Labour official is saying – is that tax is a ‘necessary evil’. It clearly follows that he thinks that state services fall into the same category. After all, they’re paid for with tax. That means he obviously health, education, law and order, defence, and the whole infrastructure of the state that make life possible in this country is to be despised. And wealth redistribution, and the correction of market failures, which are other major reasons for taxing, are also evil.

Err, no. That does not \”clearly follow\”. To insist that it does is to (somewhere between hilariously and idiotically) believe that there are not costs and benefits to all things.

Certainly some government (leave aside the contentious question of how much for a moment) is a benefit. Tax is a cost of gaining that benefit.

A loaf of bread is a benefit, one that comes with hte cost that someone must toil in the fields to grow the wheat. That the toil is a cost does not mean that the bread is undersirable.

Or perhaps we might talk about children: few enjoy the broken nights or ths shitty nappies, regarding them as a cost to gain the benefits of those children. That children come with costs does not mean that children are regarded solely as a cost, does it? Or even the case of not children: very few indeed would argue that abortion, in and of itself as abortion alone, is a benefit. Rather that it\’s a cost which allows the benefit of a child free life.

And so it is with tax and government. Some part of government are very definitely benefits. And tax is the cost, the necessary evil, that we must bear in order to get those benefits.

I mean seriously, ignoring the existence of costs and benefits, of trade offs. Where did this man learn his economics?

10 thoughts on “@RichardJMurphy tries logic: not a pretty sight.”

  1. I think RM is more a Napoleonic Law person. His view is that anything that falls into a grey area of ‘not actually contrary to the written law, but not mentioned as legal either’ is in fact illegal, and therefore tax evasion. Thus you may only do what the State actively permits you to do, all else is forbidden.

    Allied to his ‘All your efforts belong to the State’ concept, he really is a nasty little despot isn’t he?

  2. Well, he didn’t – did he?

    As he freely admits, he didn’t understand the first few lectures; the little he did understand didn’t support his utopian socialist world-view (and if he’s an appalling statist trot now, can you imagine what he was like at 18?) so he skived the rest.

  3. Re the first bit above, Murphy usually tries to ignore (or re-write) the generally accepted definition of “avoidance” (which includes the use of the various reliefs he now tries to extract), which has stood for decades.

    Murphy: “I differed with them on Twitter, saying both arguments are simply wrong. My argument is that tax avoidance is seeking to get round the law. In my view tax avoidance is not and cannot be about doing things that are very clearly legally permitted, and even encouraged by parliament.”

    As he quite clearly explains, at the end of the day, this is simply his view.

    He tries to cherry pick Nolan to back him, but I am not sure how one can realiably know what the “evident intention of Parliament” was, as Nolan is quoted, unless Parliament clearly stated it.

  4. Actually in most respects RM’s definition of tax avoidance is wholly in line with what HMRC says. To quote from a recent HMRC report:

    “Tax avoidance represents a significant part of the UK tax gap. Unlike evasion, it is not in itself illegal, but it involves using the tax law to get a tax advantage that Parliament never intended. It frequently involves contrived, artificial transactions that serve little or no purpose other than to reduce ta liability. And it enables some taxpayer to gain an unfair advantage undermining confidence in the tax system.”

  5. Tax is a ‘necessary evil’ because state services (well, some of them) are necessary, not because they are evil.
    Murphy is trying to pretend that taxes are good in themselves because he is paid to advocate higher taxes in order to fund higher pay for public sector unions and HMRC employees in particular.

  6. Can someone ask him how much tax over and above his required payment he has made in the past year? Surely someone who thinks taxes are good in themselves would want to pay additional…?

  7. @john77:

    “Tax is a ‘necessary evil’ because state services (well, some of them) are necessary,”

    And because “we” elect politicians with mandates to spend on stuff that may or may not be actually “necessary” but desirable.

    If the UK electorate wanted a minimal government then there is really nothing stopping a party putting forward such a manifesto and enacting it when elected.

  8. @ Shinsei
    “If the UK electorate wanted a minimal government then there is really nothing stopping a party putting forward such a manifesto and enacting it when elected.”
    Well, the general assumption that legally-binding contracts entered into by previous governments should normally be honoured, for one. Labour has form on reneging on contracts (usually those entered into by previous Labour governments, such as SERPS) but the Conservatives don’t like to do so and are particularly bad at it when they try (hence the Civil Service ending with n-44ths of average salary as a replacement for n-60th of final salary which is a *rise* for lots of them).

  9. I had heard that parliament was not bound by a previous parliament. With some work (at times) they can reverse what a previous government has done. Hence you end up with Labour doing one thing, Conservatives another. Or even a government over the course of more than one term changing their mind.

  10. @ Martin Davies
    Perfectly true but it takes time to legislate reversal of the scores (maybe several hundred) laws that have created the raft of bureaucracy and benefit payments that litter this country and terminate the legally binding contracts that the government (including local authorities and quangos) has with its employees.

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