Should Tax Be More Taxing?

26th Apr 2012; 13:00

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RSA Thursday

George Osborne's avowed 'shock' at the state of tax avoidance in the UK has drawn disbelieving sniggers from many corners and outrage from others. Whether or not his horror is to be believed, he has drawn a hugely important issue to the fore, and it's a discussion whose time has come.

The UK economy loses an estimated £25 billion to tax avoidance every year, and yet no real efforts have been made to confront large-scale tax avoidance. Public spending has been painfully withdrawn from many essential services, and yet tackling tax avoidance may be one of the most profitable avenues the government could pursue. So what are the real issues at stake?

Is tax avoidance a necessary evil we must tolerate in order to encourage big businesses and their contributions to the UK economy? Is the HMRC simply too underpowered and under-resourced to unpick the thousands of loopholes and clever accounting tricks used by everyone from individuals to multi-national corporations?

Do we need to fundamentally change our attitude toward tax? To view it as a fair and just contribution toward shared public services, and not as an egregious state-run money pinching scheme?

Panel to include: Richard Murphy, founder and director, the Tax Justice Network; Mike Lewis, Tax Justice policy adviser, ActionAid; Philip Booth, editorial and programme director, the Institute of Economic Affairs and professor of insurance and risk management, Cass Business School. 

Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA.

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