2 thoughts on “Opening up tax returns to public scrutiny: business, liberty and civility will suffer”

  1. Posted 13/04/2016 at 14:17 | Permalink

    I would normally have a huge amount of sympathy for the typical positions the IEA takes towards issues, particularly on tax affairs.

    I’ll admit, it distresses me to find myself agreeing with Polly Toynbee, but I think her call for fully open and public tax returns is an intelligent, if radical proposal. Her argument centres around transparency, but I think it goes deeper than that. Britain seems to have a culture of secrecy around individual financial and tax affairs. It’s considered impolite to ask someone how much they earn and perhaps for good reason, so many of us tend to make immediate judgement about others (positive and negative) based on someones pay cheque. However, there remains an obsession (especially within businesses) to gossip and estimate how much someone is on. This culture is what I think drives this fear and fixation with financial privacy.

    If, however, we adopted a system whereby you could freely look up your neighbors financial situation and see what your boss is making it may just start to deconstruct this obsession. It would take time – and there would be a vast amount of tabloid press and, no doubt, family argument but it would calm down. And perhaps people would eventually stop judging each other through pay packet gossip and start focusing on what they’re doing to earn that money and the value they add to society.

  2. Posted 13/04/2016 at 17:10 | Permalink

    It is rather naive to assume that an income tax return gives an accurate picture of a tax dodger’s income. I believe the best way to get trustworthy public officials is to trust them. There may be the occasional bad egg, but that is a price well worth paying. As has been pointed out, the financial affairs of some of our greatest prime ministers would hardly survive close scrutiny. In a free country, privacy is not an optional extra — it is fundamental.

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