Recent criticism of people who use tax avoidance to lower their tax liability has come under scrutiny with a claim by some politicians that it is immoral. However, can something which is sanctioned by the UK Parliament be immoral? Does this mean that legislation passed by the UK Parliament which permits tax avoidance is immoral legislation? This illustrates the confusion over avoidance and evasion. Take a deed of variation of a will made in the UK. It is possible under UK law for a beneficiary to vary his entitlement under the will of the deceased, provided he does so within 2 years of the date of death. So a beneficiary can give to a charity 10% of the value of the estate and reduce inheritance tax on the estate from 40% to 36%. This is a form of tax avoidance sanctioned by law. Is this immoral tax avoidance? Probably not.
The Labour candidate and former DPP Keir Starmer has admitted that Ed Miliband’s financial arrangements were “intended to reduce tax”, raising questions about the Labour’s leader decision to attack tax “avoiders”. Mr Starmer, who was the director of public prosecutions until 2013, said that people were more interested in “complicated, sophisticated tax avoidance schemes” than Mr Miliband’s arrangements.