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Scots get in on the tax avoidance act

If there’s anything the Scots don’t like, it’s not getting to do things themselves – which is why Revenue Scotland can now pursue native tax avoiders.

Lo and behold, the idea of rooting out tax avoidance wherever it rears its ugly head has crept north of the border. The Scots have embraced their new tax powers wholesale granted to them by the 2012 Scotland Act, and they’re wasting no time in making sure they can be a thorn in the side of anyone thinking they can get away with not paying their fair share of tax.

Well, not right this very minute. The new Tax Powers Bill will apply from 1 April of next year, but when it does there’s going to be a supercharged General Anti-Avoidance Rule packed into it that’s been called both ‘robust and distinctive’ by people who seem to care about that kind of thing. It’s not just at the very egregious or abusive end of the spectrum that Revenue Scotland’s GAAR will keep an eye on either, according to Scottish finance secretary John Swinney. In fact, he said it would be concerned with any artificial scheme that someone tries to pull within Scottish tax jurisdiction.

So what does this mean for the rest of us, besides that Scotland is just one more place where it’s getting harder and harder to ferret away ill-gotten gains? Well on the one hand I’m gratified to see that there are governments out there willing to crack down on tax avoidance in an intelligent way. At the same time I have absolutely no idea on how far-reaching Revenue Scotland’s GAAR is actually going to be and whether it’s going to err not on the side of caution but towards an overzealous approach to tax avoidance. We’ve already got enough of that here in England and I don’t really relish it spreading across the UK.

Then again, we can always wait and see what happens with the referendum in a few weeks. If Scotland goes independent maybe we won’t have to worry about it after all; wouldn’t that be nice? Of course then again, it’s going to just complicate things even further between England and Scotland. Oh well, at least the future won’t be boring!

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