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Too close to call in first day of tax debate

After the first day of debating, the issue of tax avoidance has split readers down the middle

14 Jan 2013 Accountancy Age

By Calum Fuller

Richard Murphy and Stephen Herring

IT'S TOO CLOSE TO CALL as the first day draws to a close on Accountancy Age's first online debate.

At the time of writing, both protagonists have garnered 50% of the vote.

The debate is looking at the heart of the matter: What is tax avoidance, and where is the line drawn between legitimate tax planning and unreasonable, unfair strategies that starve the government's coffers?

Tax Justice Network founder Richard Murphy stoutly defended the motion that "tax avoidance is an unacceptable exploitation of the tax system", while BDO tax partner Stephen Herring ably argued the situation is more nuanced than that.

Murphy suggested tax avoidance is "about exploiting loopholes within and between laws in the UK and elsewhere to get a benefit parliament did not intend", while Herring's opening gambit held that "it is a more achievable task to define what is abusive than to define what amounts to tax avoidance in contrast to acceptable tax planning".

As expected, there was lively discussion of the issues, with one reader pointing out that "the law defines what is illegal. If the law doesn't define something as illegal, it is legal. That's the way common law in the UK works." Meanwhile, another noted the moral element of the debate is "meaningless without an objective test".

The debate runs until Friday 18 January. The whole debate will remain archived on the site to view. Click here to visit the debate website.

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