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Beyond the blunt power of of tax legislation

With corporate tax avoidance in the spotlight, Alan Cockerill examines how judges have reconciled the duty on businesses to comply with the law and directors’ responsibility to their companies and shareholders

8 February 2013

Tax avoidance has become a much maligned term over recent weeks. The revelations that global companies with enormous turnovers in the UK have been paying little or no corporation tax have engendered emotions of rage and frustration among members of the public and politicians of all persuasions.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, is reported as describing tax avoidance schemes as “completely and utterly and totally immoral”. Starbucks, the international coffee chain, has been subjected to protests and demonstrations. As a result it has said that it is now willing to pay £20m in corporation tax to avoid consumer boycotts.

Campaign group UK Uncut commented that Starbucks’ announcement was “a blatant admission of guilt” that the coffee chain had intentionally avoided tax.

However, tax avoidance ...

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