Tax avoidance: is it the new MPs’ expenses?

The pursuit of analogies with tax avoidance is an occasional hobby of mine, and in the current febrile climate, I think I’ve found a corker. Think about it…

A spate of media articles, the vast bulk of which explain in detail how their subjects maximised their incomes while complying with a system created by parliament. The public are outraged at seeing the outcome of this system, though the details and rationale behind it are barely discussed. It becomes impossible for someone under fire to justify their position.

Next, an undercurrent of frustration from those implicated, who feel that they have been unjustly singled out when the problem is ‘the system’ and their own affairs had been approved by the body responsible:

The Member of Parliament-makes the claim but the House of Commons have to decide on that claim, look at whether or not it’s within the rules before they pay out. Under the system it is for the House of Commons fees office to decide whether it comes within the rules.

Harriet Harman

There’s a debate about whether participants are entitled to arrange their affairs in order to gain the maximum benefit, or whether the rules have some underlying ‘spirit’ that should be observed:

Unfortunately what happened was there was an assumption from a lot of MPs that the money was there and in some sense it was there as an allowance that they were entitled to rather than as expenses, and that was wrong.

Theresa May

Politicians respond, with a commitment to tighten up ‘the system’.

“The public are really angry and we have to start by saying, look, this system that we had, that we used, that we operated, that we took part in – it was wrong and we’re sorry about it.”

David Cameron

And then, the icing on the cake, the Starbucks of MPs expenses:

I have heard absolutely the outrage and the anger that the public feel about what has been going on. I would never do anything to let down the people that I represent and serve and that is the most important thing for me. It isn’t just enough to claim within the law, that is why I have decided to send to the inland revenue a cheque.

Hazel Blears