Don't moralise on tax, Gauke

David GaukePA

Oh dear! David Gauke has made himself look a right wally by telling the British public that paying people cash-in-hand is 'morally wrong'.

Last week exchequer secretary to the Treasury Gauke lambasted members of the British public who pay cash to tradesmen, cleaners, window cleaners and anyone else who may ask for cash payment. He trilled that cash-in-hand payments have left a £2 billion black hole in the economy and proceeded to judge the moral standing of those that pay cash – but what he failed to add is that paying someone cash is perfectly legal.You can pay everyone in cash if you wish, it's up to the person you pay cash to, to declare their income, including the cash payments. It's not up to any customer to ensure the person or company they purchase an item or service from is paying the correct amount of tax.

What Gauke seemed to want to say, but couldn't, is that he thinks tradesmen and others who rely on cash are dodging tax and he doesn't like it.

This is all a bit rich from the man who used to make a living out of helping the wealthy avoid tax. Gauke was a solicitor at Macfarlanes, a company which specialises in tax structuring – which translates as helping rich people pay less tax.

Research last year showed tax avoidance costs the UK economy £69.9 billion a year, putting the £2 billion lost to cash-in-hand operations into perspective.

Where is the other £67.9 million disappearing to? I've written about him before, but how about billionaire Philip Green who has avoided hundreds of millions in tax by making his Monaco-based wife the direct owner of his Arcadia Group business. Or how about the tax deals that companies including Vodaphone and Goldman Sachs have struck with the government – surely that's immoral?

Gauke looks like a fool. While he judges those who pay labourers and cleaners, people who are typically on low wages and may be struggling hard to pay bills and find enough work, his own governmental department, the Treasury, strikes deals to allow companies to escape millions of pounds of tax.

So before you decide to give the nation a lesson in ethics Mr Gauke, just remember; it's not for politicians to moralise about tax, they're there to change the tax system for the better and so far we've seen no evidence of that.

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