Debate continues – tax avoidance & tax evasion

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Mr Jallow, you have raised very interesting points in your reply to my rejoinder. It appears to
me that we have both agreed on the point that tax avoidance is legal but tax evasion is
illegal. The point I was trying to make in my previous article was that the two are used
interchangeably although one is legal and the other is not, and causes a lot of confusion for
many people.

You concur with me that morality is subjective and went further to state that, that is why we
have laws surrounding taxation and pretty much everything else. I could not agree more
with you. I do not think that people avoiding tax is the problem, the problem is short
comings in the promulgation of laws and poor design of tax regimes.

I mentioned in my previous article that in the Gambian context, there is a need to review
our tax systems ranging from dividend, withholding, payroll CGT etc to make them fairer.
This will ensure that the tax system is not open to abuse and vengeful towards the poor and
the powerless. We are where we are Mr Jallow because of governments’ inability to keep
their promises and look after those at the bottom of the income ladder. Mr Clinton, when he
was president in 1998 caused a storm when he said, “Save our Social Security”. This was well
received across America because he knew that was what people wanted to hear. This
however triggered a reaction from senator Ernest Holdings when he said, “Obviously, the
first way to save Social Security is to stop looting it”, (Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant, P 65).

It is quite obvious from the above that the federal government has been responsible for
borrowing the retirement money for expenditures. I think Mr Jallow what we need to
understand is that the reason why the rich do not pay a lot of tax is because they do not
earn their money as employees. I demonstrated this in my previous article where my friend
could save £10,600 if he pays himself an annual dividend of £45,000 rather than earning it
as a salary.

I agree with you again when you stated in your response to my rejoinder that “To avoid tax
is to not pay tax law-makers intended you to pay”. Again, tax avoidance is still legal within
the framework as the law-makers have not done their work well enough to close those
loopholes. Stopping at intent alone will not make the practice illegal. They need to put in
place stringent measure to make it difficult or even impossible for people to take advantage
of those gaps in the tax codes.

As an accountant, I am employed by a company that needs me to highlight any potential
lawful money saving opportunity within my remit and to ensure that those opportunities
are exploited. Some people may say that is immoral but I am doing a job and something
being moral or immoral is debatable. However, what we need is a concerted effort to
influence policy and work with legislators to bring in laws that will ensure that everyone is
paying their fair share of taxes.

I am with you when you said and I quote, “Tax avoidance – particularly in an era of cuts and
austerity – is indefensible”. This to me is true as I fall in the category of the poor and I moan
about it because I am not privileged to earn my income in any other way other than a salary.
However, nobody will go to prison because they minimised their tax liability which was the
gist of my previous article. Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad once
responded to a question about how much he earned in a particular year. He said to the
newspaper reporter that he earned $1m dollars but paid no tax. This income was earned
from capital gains and he used what is called Rollover Relieve to not pay tax and indefinitely
defer it.

To those who cannot use the system to avoid tax, this is immoral but to the benefactor, this
is called being smart. This is the reason why I say that we as citizens need to put more
pressure on our governments to bring about tax reforms that will curtail the use of
questionable schemes and put a stop to system abuse.

I will end the debate now because I believe you and I are on the same page but just that we
see the same issue from different angles.

It is indeed a pleasure that I am able to engage you on this topic and get your reaction in a
very professional manner. I think others will learn lessons from this discourse and engage
each other maturely, if the stories I heard about what goes on in Facebook are anything to
go by. I am not on Facebook but I heard a lot of unpleasant things about it.

We as Gambians should learn to respect each other and understand that people will always
have differing viewpoints with you but that does not give you the licence chin them.

Thanks for a very constructive and fruitful debate Mr Jallow. I have learnt a lot from your
writings and I will encourage you to continue sharing your knowledge as you are an
inspiration in my view.

Nuha Ceesay
Leeds
United Kingdom

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