Today I saw David Cameron on the evening news, criticising comedian Jimmy Carr for not paying as much tax as he should. I don’t have much sympathy for Jimmy Carr.
I actually believe in paying tax. It might hurt when I see my payslip, but I appreciate schools, ‘free’ healthcare, the police etc.
So tax avoidance is not high on my list of virtues.
But the real story here is not Jimmy Carr. The real story is tax avoidance.
Highlighting Jimmy Carr’s tax affairs is simply a trick that those who would influence often use. A would-be-influencer needs to trigger an emotional response in their audience, if they want them to care. It’s hard to connect with a concept, it’s much easier to care when there’s something to identify with. An individual.
Once we’ve latched on to our identification target, it becomes personal, emotional. In either direction I might add – love or hate.
The would-be-influencer here is using that connection to divert us from the real story. We’re now cross that Jimmy Carr has pocketed our ticket money and avoided paying tax. We are not angry about institutional tax avoidance.
There have been many Jimmy Carrs before and there will be many tax avoiders to come. Because what we’re not saying is that rather than making an individual a scapegoat, we could be closing those tax loopholes.
I don’t recall Cameron on the evening news questioning lax tax legislation, or large corporations and their tax avoidance.