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We must crack down on the tax avoiders

This week there has been much wringing of hands about tax avoidance. The Guardian has even run a series, “The Tax Gap” on the subject. We must have a crack-down.

But isn’t this attacking the wrong target? If people leave their front doors open when there are thieves about, they should not complain if they get robbed. The EU countries and the US moan about their lost revenue but they have only themselves to blame. Their tax systems are wide open to avoidance. They invite it. People and companies are mobile and their income can be concealed and moved around. In fact, multi-national companies have no fixed abode at all. Of course they will exploit all the loopholes in the system so that they pay as little as possible. There is nothing illegal about tax avoidance and we all do it if we can.

Yet it is easy enough to design a tax system that is watertight. Taxation should be attached to the holding of land titles. The rental value of land is collected and used as public revenue. That is what this Campaign consistently advocates. Then tax will not be avoided or evaded. Land cannot be hidden or sent to a tax haven. Land values are a matter of public knowledge. Everyone needs to use land. The system is leak-proof and the government is assured of a reliable stream of revenue.

Since this has been brought to the attention of politicians and journalists on numerous occasions, one might have thought that at least one of the indignant hacks might have picked it up and given it an airing. But there has not been a word of editorial comment on the subject. Given this wilful ignorance and the solid opposition of the economics experts and powers-that-be to land value taxation, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that nobody is serious about preventing tax avoidance. All the talk looks like hypocrisy. The system is set up for it.