We have all heard these tax evasion stories. It’s because the tax system invites fraud like that. I can remember sitting in the accountant’s office at tax time and noting the way the accountant asked his questions. My husband was a GP and we had both written books, so our expenses for our book writing were tax deductible. The accountant would say, “And this $480, was that for travel associated with your book?” It was in the days when you had printed bank statements posted to your homes and it was a matter of labelling each sale and matching it up with a cheque. There was no internet banking then, and it was easy to forget to record a cheque properly.
The time with the accountant was a cross between a conspiratorial plot and an open honest discussion. I know never felt comfortable any way. We usually ended up so that some expenses were declared correctly and some dishonestly. I got the impression that the accountant had to run a fine line between pleasing his clients and keeping a good reputation with the IRD, so the atmosphere was palpable.
Just imagine this occasion multiplied a few thousand times by couples all over the western world. Is it or isn’t this item tax deductible? Such a waste of time. So many hours spent by so many on tax avoidance. Why? Because we have income tax, a completely illogical tax. We should tax what we hold or take not what we do or make.
Apart from the occasional saint, we all have tendency to get away with what we can and the system just brings out the dishonesty in us. Accountants will be more familiar than I am with all the various ways people can cheat – by declaring family gifts as tax deductible capital items and other forms of false deductions, as well as having offshore bank accounts and making false invoices. Then there is the straight “cash job” indulged in by a range of tradespeople and others.
Just as a welfare system based on your relationship status invites you to cheat, so a tax system based on what you earn invites you to cheat. Cheating is an inevitable result of a wrongly targeted tax system and an outdated welfare system.
In contrast a land rental cannot be avoided. There are no tax deductions. You pay for what you use of the commons and that is that. You can’t take your land offshore and hide it in a tax haven. You can’t cheat. The tax is simple and cheap and hard to evade. Likewise if you use water commercially for irrigation or other purposes, you pay for the use of the water. Simple. No tax deductibility there either.