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What is tax avoidance? Navigating the tax planning landscape

The lines between tax avoidance and legitimate tax planning have become very blurred, so much so that the UK economy may even be affected by the uncertainty, says Andy White

22 September 2014

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

This well-known example of inductive reasoning perfectly characterises current public attitudes to tax avoidance. We all know what tax avoidance is and it is clearly wrong that the rich and powerful are able to avoid paying ‘their dues’ while the rest of us have no choice.

But herein lies the problem. One man’s avoidance is another’s legitimate tax planning. So is it good enough for successive governments to rely on a taxpayer’s judgement and sense of morality to determine tax liabilities? The simple answer is no.

Nonetheless, this is where we are today and this is the climate in which professional advisers have to operate. The...

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