The daftness of UKUncut

The protests are against the wrong targets.

Today, lots of well-meaning people will stand in the rain and drizzle to protest against a profitable bank. This is the UKUncut campaign, which in essence is a general attempt to get corporations to pay tax that they are not legally obliged to pay. It is, at base, a campaign for voluntary tax payments.

However, this campaign is misconceived to the very point of daftness. Companies have to comply with the relevant tax regime: they really have no choice. Companies have to pay all tax that is lawfully due. Lawfully due tax cannot be avoided, regardless of ingenuity or greed. Accordingly, if certain companies are not paying enough tax, then the only solution is to improve tax legislation and properly resource its implementation by HMRC.

Tax avoidance and minimisation can be addressed by better tax legislation and policy. It really is that simple.

The HMRC is under-resourced, especially compared with the access multinationals have to expert legal and accountancy advice. The UKUncut protesters should campaign for more funding for HMRC and improved tax legislation. If they should be protesting anywhere on a miserable day like today, it should be outside the Treasury.

But the irony in all this is that from 1997 to 2010, it was a Labour government that did nothing to take on the tax-avoidance industry. So perhaps the protesters should be outside Labour headquarters, too, or the front doors of Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. It would make far better sense.

David Allen Green is former legal correspondent at the New Statesman.