Sunday, 10 June 2012

Innocent until proven guilty part 2

I have been more than half persuaded by the arguments presented here by those who feel that the presumption of innocence should be paramount and that we should not treat people as being likely to be involved in the commission of illegal acts, unless there is strong evidence to suggest such a thing. As a result of this, I have become uneasy in my mind lately about the activities of the Inland Revenue.

As readers are perhaps aware, the tax inspectors are constantly on the lookout for those fiddling their taxes. They insist on comprehensive and detailed forms being filled out and make many visits to businesses on a random basis, just on the off chance that offences are being committed. This is outrageous.

What would be far fairer, as well as more in keeping with the spirit of English jurisprudence, would be if a network of Honesty Boxes were established on street corners. These would be rather like pillar boxes and instead of tax being deducted automatically by employers or our having to fill out complex forms regularly, we would all be responsible for calculating our own tax and then putting it in these Honesty Boxes. Of course, if the Inland Revenue had sound reason to suspect that somebody was not paying enough tax, they could still make a visit, but the automatic assumption that citizens would be guilty of fiddling their taxes unless closely supervised would be done away with. Remember, ’Innocent until proven guilty’!


  1. The Inland Revenue operate a similar system to the New Zealand education system. A few random visits (we've been in business for 20 without a visit) and a few written details (basically totals for income and expenditure for small businesses). Most home educators do not object to providing written information in response to informal enquiries, the equivalent to tax returns. It would be interesting to hear their view of the New Zealand practice of a few random visits (8) per year. Far fewer visits than LAs currently undertake but probably more comparable to the UK tax system.

  2. Most people are not even given the chance to behave honestly; they are assumed to be guilty from the start. Paying tax by PAYE is done automatically, with the individual being thought too stupid or dishonest to be trusted with the process. We could rid ourselves of a huge number of civil servants, simply by allowing people to decide for themselves if they were paying the right amont of tax and sending it off to the Inland Revenue. All this constant checking smacks to me very much of a presumption of guilt.


  3. these checks cost a lot of tax payers money webb? there no way on earth a government will allow LA to waste money on visit for home educators mush as you want to poke your nose into people houses!
    try poking it though our letter box!

  4. and with all the checks by tax inpectors millions are still not collected!

  5. "Most people are not even given the chance to behave honestly; they are assumed to be guilty from the start. Paying tax by PAYE is done automatically, with the individual being thought too stupid or dishonest to be trusted with the process."

    And there was me thinking it's just easier and more cost effective for the IR to deal with, say 100 businesses rather than their 10,000 employees as individuals.

    In 2007-08, nearly 9 million people submitted self-assessment tax returns. Of these 3,219 were randomly checked. That's less than 0.04%. The rest, over 99.96%, were taken on trust. I would suggest that self-assessment tax returns compare well the HE whilst PAYE is more comparable with schools, but either way, your argument fails since even employed people can have other work fail to pay tax on those wages. How many random checks are carried out to ensure this isn't happening?

    The comparison between tax returns and HE inspections sounds like a good argument for significant reductions in the number of home visits currently carried out by LA employees. Thanks Simon.

    1. So taking the usual guess of 50,000 HE children and using the IR enquiry rate for visits (0.04%), that's 20 visits over the whole country per year. Our LA carries out more visits than this alone!

  6. FYI, in the 2007-08 tax year there were also 1649 random checks on employer compliance and 433 on Corporation Tax Self Assessment. Soooo many checks. Not.

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