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Corporations, the clergy, and tax avoidance

31 October 2014


From Dr N. P. Hudd
Sir, - In pouring shame on tax-avoiding corporations, Canon Geoff Daintree (Comment, 24 October) has perhaps missed a central point, one unconsidered by, probably, a majority of critics. The legal issue is clear in every jurisdiction affected. But is there actually a moral issue at all? That is, many will be astonished to hear me say, far from evident.

The many strictures that Canon Daintree applies to the situation apply to us all - but to us all as individuals. It behoves us, as he says, to support our governments in all that they do, not only for the weak, but to enhance all our lives. A corporation, however, has no actual physical existence. It exists only in the individuals who constitute it, all of whom, presumably, pay tax as individuals, on income and expenditure, whether employees, directors, shareholders, etc.

All have an income that is taxed, and any corporate profit not so distributed is that used in research and/or development, to the benefit of employment and society at large. The individuals then are taxed again when they spend their money (a dual taxation itself of questionable morality). Now, all governments do tax corporations, but, as far as one can see, it is only on the basis that they will tax anything that they can get away with taxing, again a matter of questionable probity.

The basis of taxing corporations is a legal one, and it is very doubtful that complying with the letter of those laws has any moral dimension at all. It is impossible to fail to comply with the spirit of a law if you are doing just what it says, and I see nothing in the teachings of Jesus which applies to this issue. The behaviour of individuals is a totally different matter. We should be railing at our political masters, who, generation after generation, fail to reduce our tax system to words of one syllable.

Whether or not I approve of the overweening arrogance of the large corporations is, again, a totally different issue, which would probably incinerate this paper were I to address it now.

13 Elmfield, Tenterden
Kent TN30 6RE

From Mr Robert Leach
Sir, - When Canon Geoff Daintree rails against tax avoidance, does he realise that he and his fellow clergy are probably the biggest group of tax avoiders in this country?

More than half the remuneration package of the clergy comprises free housing and a non-contributory pension fund, both tax-free.

Chartered accountant
19 Chestnut Avenue
Ewell, Epsom
Surrey KT19 0SY

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