Calls for professionals – including lawyers, accountants and financial advisers – who advise on tax avoidance measures to face prosecution have been slammed as “flawed” and “disingenuous” by the boss of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations.
The rebuff from Nigel Green, the founder and chief executive of deVere Group, which has 80,000 clients and $10bn under advice and management, is in response to a series of amendments to the Finance Bill tabled by Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover. These modifications would make it illegal to advise clients to actively avoid tax.
Mr Elphicke, a former tax lawyer himself, told The Times on Monday: “You shouldn’t just go after the client, you should go after the person who advises them.”
The deVere Group CEO comments: “For someone who had a career as a tax lawyer, it seems bizarre that Mr Elphicke appears unaware of the differences between tax avoidance, which is perfectly legal and can form a sensible part of a robust tax planning strategy, and tax evasion, which is illegal and therefore punishable under the law.
“The notion that it will be illegal to advise someone on legally mitigating their tax liabilities is surely flawed.”
He continues: “Not only is it flawed it is utterly disingenuous. If politicians, and others, are unhappy with the system as it currently stands, it is MPs who need to answer questions. It is they who have the power to change the country’s tax laws.
“Previously, in an attempt to score political points on this issue, certain MPs and so-called ‘activists’ have attacked high-profile individuals and firms who had been legally reducing their tax burdens. This was in an attempt to damage their reputation and subsequently swing the court of public opinion in their favour.
“Now it would seem the next targets on this misguided mission for tax reform are professionals such as lawyers, accountants and financial advisers.”
He concludes: “It would appear that Mr Elphicke, and others, are determined to try and make tax a moral issue. Tax is not and never should be a question of morality. Tax is a legal impost and it is a duty of all citizens and firms to adhere to the law and arrange their financial affairs in order to pay the required amount set by the government.”