Tuesday, 24 July 2012

How much for cash?

If your plumber, gardener or motor mechanic offers you a cheaper price for cash, and you accept, you are probably going to be complicit in some sort of tax evasion, be it income tax or VAT. It is hard to argue with the proposition that this is morally, if not legally, reprehensible since it means that the tradesperson concerned is not paying their full and fair contribution to society.

I get that, of course. However, I would be more inclined to take lessons in morality from Government Minister David Gaulke were it not for the following:

Large corporations, and super-rich individuals, pay wealthy accountants and lawyers to ensure that they  do not pay their full and fair contribution. Indeed, Gaulke used to be just such a lawyer, and his wife still is. Nothing unlawful, of course, but exploiting every possible loophole. Whilst the Government makes idle threats to tackle this 'morally repugnant' conduct, nothing is actually done about it. It is believed that Vodafone were 'let off' as much as £8bn tax in a sweetheart deal and Tory funder Lord Ashcroft lived as a 'non-dom' to avoid British tax for 10 years as a Peer of the Realm before finally giving up that status in 2010.

Government outrage seems to be selective. While David Cameron was quick to name and shame comedian Jimmy Carr, not known to be his greatest fan, he seemed less interest in discussing the tax affairs of a high number of Conservative supporters.

The Con-Dems have also demonstrate a selective approach when it comes to what is morally acceptable. Closing down Remploy, for example, and throwing some 1500 people with severe disabilities out of work is OK. Giving millionaires a tax break while slashing benefits to those most in need is fine.

As the poor get poorer, it isn't surprising that offered the opportunity of a small discount in return for paying cash people are going to think 'why not'?

And on a practical point, have you tried paying your window cleaner by credit card recently? With the withdrawal of the cheque guarantee card last year, and the planned phasing out of cheques in years to come, just how are small bills to be paid if not with cash?

I do like a good biblical quotation, and there is one here that seems to fit the bill perfectly:

How can you think of saying, 'Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye. (Luke 6:42)

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