Green slams MPs calls for tax advisers to be prosecuted

Robyn Hall

June 17, 2014

The rebuff from Nigel Green, the founder and chief executive of deVere Group, which has 80,000 clients and $10bn under advice and management, is in response to a series of amendments to the Finance Bill tabled by Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover. These modifications would make it illegal to advise clients to actively avoid tax.

Elphicke, a former tax lawyer himself, told The Times on Monday: “You shouldn’t just go after the client, you should go after the person who advises them.”

But the deVere Group CEO said: “For someone who had a career as a tax lawyer, it seems bizarre that Mr Elphicke appears unaware of the differences between tax avoidance, which is perfectly legal and can form a sensible part of a robust tax planning strategy, and tax evasion, which is illegal and therefore punishable under the law.

“The notion that it will be illegal to advise someone on legally mitigating their tax liabilities is surely flawed.”

Green added: “Not only is it flawed it is utterly disingenuous. If politicians, and others, are unhappy with the system as it currently stands, it is MPs who need to answer questions. It is they who have the power to change the country’s tax laws.

“Maybe there is indeed a need to overhaul the complex system but it is not financial advisers who can do this.

“Previously, in an attempt to score political points on this issue, certain MPs and so-called ‘activists’ have attacked high-profile individuals and firms who had been legally reducing their tax burdens. This was in an attempt to damage their reputation and subsequently swing the court of public opinion in their favour.

“Now it would seem the next targets on this misguided mission for tax reform are professionals such as lawyers, accountants and financial advisers.”

And he said: “It would appear that Mr Elphicke, and others, are determined to try and make tax a moral issue. Tax is not and never should be a question of morality. Tax is a legal impost and it is a duty of all citizens and firms to adhere to the law and arrange their financial affairs in order to pay the required amount set by the government.”

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