J K Rowling: we pay taxes in order to live in a civil society (video)

The UK is a great nation. I am not joking. Despite what you may have read in the Daily Mail, by and large, the UK is an advanced, civilised, law-abiding country and it is a wonderful place to be born and live. I am certainly proud to be British and for all its faults I love my country.

One of the fundamental reasons that the UK is a relative success both economically and socially is the social contract between the state and its citizenry.  This provides, among other things, that those who can afford to do so, pay taxes to the state so that it can deliver the services and infrastructure that ensure that the nation as a whole can prosper.  However, our success is placed at risk when those who have benefited from the amenable business environment that the social contract ensures, decide that they should no longer fully contribute.

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Unmodified Video © Channel 4 / ITN / Comedy Central

J K Rowling Perfect Example of Government Investment

Tax evasion and avoidance have reached epidemic proportions in the UK and the US.  Many of the wealthiest engage in aggressive avoidance where they can but there are some notable exceptions such as the author J K Rowling.  Unlike Tory donor Lord Ashcroft, friend of David Cameron Gary Barlow and countless others, Rowling has not changed her domicile or entered into aggressive tax avoidance schemes. Last month Rowling was reported in the Sunday Times to be worth $1bn.  She could easily employ a host of advisers to ensure that she pays little or no UK taxes if she chose.  Nonetheless, she is proud to pay her (presumably huge) tax bill and she is explicit about the reasons for doing so.  She is the social contract personified.

Those that avoid or evade tax have forgotten or wilfully ignored the benefits that the nation’s largesse has contributed to their success. Could any business or individual thrive in the UK without a social safety net, healthcare provision, an educated workforce, law enforcement, transport networks, environmental protection and the countless other centrally provided support systems that our taxes deliver.  All of these things are required for corporations and entrepreneurs to be successful.

Too much wealth in too few hands distorts the way we view success. Of course hard work and ingenuity should be able to thrive and be handsomely rewarded but we should never lose sight of the fact that everyone who has ever paid a penny in tax is also a stakeholder in the success of entrepreneurs and businesses that peddle their wares in the UK.

So when a wealthy tax avoider tells you “I got rich from hard work” ask them “whose?”.

Whose hard work?

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