What Is Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion ?

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Economists who favour tax competition often cite a 1956 article by Charles Tiebout (1924-68) entitled “A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures”. In it he argued that, faced with a choice of different combinations of tax and government services, taxpayers will choose to locate where they get closest to the mixture they want. Variations in tax rates among different countries are good, because they give taxpayers more choice and thus more chance of being satisfied. This also puts pressure on governments to be efficient. Thus measures to harmonize taxes are a bad idea. There is at least one big caveat to this theory. Tiebout assumed, crucially, that taxpayers are highly mobile and able to move to wherever their preferred combination of taxes and benefits is on offer.

Tax competition may make it harder to redistribute from rich to poor through the tax system by allowing the rich to move to where taxes are not redistributive. Tactics Used by Tax Evaders Moonlighting Tax evasion at its simplest level merely involves staying out of the tax system altogether. The Revenue deploys small teams of volunteer officers to carry out surveillance to track down moonlighters. Early success was followed up by the deployment of compliance officers in virtually every tax office. Revenue Investigation Officers routinely scan advertisements in local newspapers or shop windows and even before the advent of the modern personal computer they frequently had access to reverse telephone directories to track down moonlighters from bare telephone number details. They also study bank and other financial institutions deposit and loans databases, customs records, and star class hotel bookings for private functions and ceremonies to identify rich individuals who maybe evading taxes.

Non Extractive Fraud Alternatively it can arise because the tax base is less than comprehensive, for example, because not all economic income is subject to income tax. ï?~ An ability to exploit the difference in tax by converting high-tax activity into low-tax activity is required. If there are differences in tax rates, but no ability to move from high to low-tax, no arbitrage is possible. ï?~ Even if these two conditions are met, this does not make tax arbitrage and avoidance possible. The tax system may mix high and low-rate taxpayers. The high-rate taxpayer may be able to divert income to a low-rate taxpayer or convert highly-taxed income into a lowly-taxed form. But this is pointless unless the high-rate taxpayer can be recompensed in a lowly-taxed form for diverting or converting his or her income into a low-tax category. The income must come back in a low-tax form. The benefit must also exceed the transaction costs. This is the third necessary condition for tax arbitrage. Since all tax systems have bases that are less than comprehensive because of the impossibility of defining and measuring all economic income, tax arbitrage and avoidance is inherent in tax systems. This involves profit switches or timing differences, for example:

  •  Post dating Receipts
  •  Ante dating Expenditure
  •  Hidden Reserves
  •  Incorrect accounting of transactions such as showing an income as a payable.
  •  Stock manipulation Perhaps the most common place method seen in practice is the manipulation of stock to produce the desired “profit”.

It is not unknown for the evaders’ Accountant to be involved – putting at risk the livelihood and, if the amount involved is significant, personal liberty! The most blatant case of this kind is where the Accountant virtually treated this as year end tax planning. Based upon the formal disclosures made by the evader under the Hansard procedure to the Inland Revenue (in which he implicated the Accountant and in connection with an account in a false name also his Bank Manager), the following scene can be recreated: “Studying the draft accounts the Accountant did a quick calculation to work out what range of figures could be used for closing stock in hand without giving rise to suspicion. He then apparently discussed with the client the impact on net profit of reducing Closing Stock.

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