Rob Barber is a Management Consultant and former Chiltern District Councillor
The more things change, the more they stay the same. A quote often wrongly attributed to Cicero has the great statesman and constitutionalist opining that: “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, and the arrogance of officialdom tempered and controlled.”
One does not have to be a Roman philosopher to appreciate that – at a time when the UK still spends £99.5 billion a year more than it brings in, and with a public debt of £1,000 billion – it is essential for the Government to make the business climate as attractive as possible. To grow the tax base and maintain living standards in a competitive global economy, the Government must encourage entrepreneurship and remove barriers to investment and job creation.
A key platform of the Government’s deficit reduction strategy has been to take a strong stance against tax avoidance. It is understandable that with tough spending choices needing to be made, the Treasury wishes to ensure everyone is paying their fair share and close down avoidance loopholes and maximise revenue. But some of the rhetoric around tax avoidance has led to bad policy decisions. Whether it has been the Exchequer Secretary declaring cash payments to tradesmen morally wrong, or the Prime Minister opining on the tax affairs of a well known comedian, this year has seen tax avoiders overtake bankers and benefit cheats as the public enemy to be thrown to the lions.