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A principled approach to anti-avoidance

Historically, the government’s response to an avoidance “scheme” has been to block it (and then block scheme mark 2, et seq). Look at national insurance (NIC). I am (sadly) old enough to remember when employees were paid bonuses in gold coins to save NIC. Gold coins were of course blocked, so the market moved on to platinum sponge, fine wine and, as I recall, carpets. It took a long time to introduce legislation to stop all similar schemes.

From the Treasury’s perspective principles-based avoidance legislation makes perfect sense.

There has been a lot of sophisticated planning around interest income and HMRC and the Treasury are seeking to change the rules of the tax planning “game” with the introduction of a principle. The consultative document states: ‘A return designed to be economically equivalent to interest is to be taxed in the same way as interest.’ (Regrettably the ensuing draft legislation is nowhere near as succinct).

If this principle based approach is successful in this area, we have to ask – what will be the next step?



Date: 9th April, 2008
Author: Cathy Corns


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