The Church is ill-placed to condemn tax-avoidance

by
21 March 2012

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From the Revd David Simon

Sir, — In the article “End tax-avoidance now” (Comment, 16 March), Niall Cooper argues that there is a theological imperative to confront and, attempt to prevent, tax avoidance. This seems an appro­priate attitude for Christians to adopt.

Unfortunately, the institutional Church and many Christians attempt to avoid tax. Diocesan steward­ship advisers advocate using the most tax-efficient methods of giving to the Church, maximising the amount recovered to compen­sate for the payment of VAT, and the acquisition of grants to finance ministry and mission. Financial advisers assist in making the most of available tax allowances for dio­cesan boards of finance, clergy, and laity.

Until we recognise that every pound of tax saved by, or grant acquired by, churches and Chris­tians imposes an identical cost on someone else in society, we will be in a weak position to advocate end­ing tax-avoidance by companies and individuals.

Although I have to admit that I am compromised by Gift Aid, ISAs, and IHT planning, I can see clearly that our Christian witness and argu­ment would be much more effective if we practised what we preached.

DAVID S. SIMON

3 Kents Bank House

Kentsford Road

Grange over Sands

Cumbria LA11 7BB

DAVID S. SIMON

3 Kents Bank House

Kentsford Road

Grange over Sands

Cumbria LA11 7BB

From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, — Niall Cooper usefully moves the debate about the economy towards thinking about the principles on which taxation should be based. The Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States, in their 1986 Economic Justice for All, set out some principles for consideration.

“First, the tax system should raise adequate revenues to pay for the public needs of society, especially to meet the needs of the poor. The tax system should be structured according to the principle of progressivity, so that those with relatively greater financial resources pay a higher rate of taxation. The inclusion of such a principle is an important means of reducing the severe inequalities of income and wealth in the nation.”

The debate in the UK has been bedevilled by the claim that it is unfair to the taxpayer to pay 100-per-cent housing benefit to social-security claimants in high-rent areas such as Westminster, Kensington, and Chelsea. Many taxpayers do not sign up to that maxim. We wonder why the landlords have not had their rent capped after profiting from billions of public money in housing benefit for decades. They raised their rents in a housing market in short supply and high demand, owing to the long-term absence of national affordable housing policy.

The true unfairness is to the poorest tenants, when putting them into unmanageable debt and rent arrears, unreasonable stress, and forced migration, by capping housing benefit.

I have heard the moral Left argue for prioritising the common good and the moral Right argue that the priority is the promotion of the dignity of the human person. I argue that no moral principle has governed taxation in the UK for decades. We are now governed by the opinion polls. The opinions polled have been influenced by very badly distorted descriptions of poverty published by corrupt tabloids in the UK, which have been fed to journalists by politicians who put winning the next election above the principles of the common good and human dignity; they are aware that the poorest citizens are less likely to vote than property-owners and income-taxpayers.

PAUL NICOLSON

Taxpayers Against Poverty

93 Campbell Road

London N17 0BF

PAUL NICOLSON

Taxpayers Against Poverty

93 Campbell Road

London N17 0BF

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