How paying tax has become the “smell test” of society approval


Following my blog on “social usefulness” this week (and a previous one on Jimmy Carr’s tax shame), I thought this story – Rich man pays his taxes! – from today’s Sunday Times was worth sharing:

THE highest earner in Britain has made the unprecedented decision to open his books and reveal he is paying £34m tax on his £87m income, enough to fund the salaries of 1,600 newly qualified nurses.

In a move likely to embarrass high-earning tax avoiders, David Harding, the founder of Winton Capital Management, a hedge fund, has revealed that he paid personal tax at an overall rate of 39% last year. Harding’s salary above £150,000 is taxed at 50% but he takes the bulk of his earnings in dividends, which are taxed at a lower rate.

His decision to go public comes amid a backlash against aggressive tax avoidance by the rich. David Cameron had described Jimmy Carr, the comedian, as “morally wrong” for using a legal scheme enabling him to pay income tax rates as low as 1%.

Harding, 51, said: “I am definitely not whiter than white.” But he added: “I think that if you want to be accepted by society you have to be seen to be paying your share.” Although he declined to single out fellow tycoons, he said the rich should be able to pass the “smell test”.

Tax, in itself, is a pretty dull subject. But it is interesting that amidst public anger even the biggest taxpayers are beginning to see “paying your fair share” as the price required for gaining acceptance by society.

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