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Monday, 16 February 2015


I heard a discussion this morning on the radio concerning paying taxes. Someone asserted that those who accept a workman’s lower price on the understanding that the bill is settled in cash – with its implication that this will remain undeclared income and no tax will be paid on it – are colluding in tax evasion, which is a crime. 

A counter opinion was raised that if you purchase goods from, say, amazon.co.uk, you are colluding in tax avoidance on a much grander scale.  

Semantics – tax evasion is a crime; tax avoidance is legal. There is a legal difference but is there a moral distinction? The window cleaner who doesn’t declare £25 income and thereby cheats the government of about £6 is a criminal; the multinational company whose experts tiptoe through the legislation to find the loopholes and thereby render the company exempt from paying millions in tax get off ‘Scot free’. 

I don’t enjoy paying taxes but I believe that we live in a democracy where our government was chosen by election, and that obliges us to pay the taxes they set. If we want a decent infrastructure of roads and hospitals and schools then we need to contribute to that infrastructure. 

So is one minor infraction less heinous than a major infraction? Is there any moral difference between evasion and avoidance? 

Jesus set high standards for our moral conduct. He taught that for a man to even look at a woman with lust was tantamount to committing adultery. The apostle Paul included gossip in the list of sins alongside murder. 

Sin is sin. It is there in the attitude which precedes the action. 

None of us can avoid sinning, except with the help of the Holy Spirit. We only have access to the Holy Spirit because Jesus took our sins on himself on the cross. Jesus did it all; he paid for the sins of the whole world. Jesus. What a travesty that his name is said more often as a swear word than as a prayer.

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