German taxmen made a
big show last week of arresting a businessman who hid money in a bank in Liechtenstein.
They say this is the
first of many raids based on information obtained from a disc of account
information sold to them by a dishonest bank employee.
If so, their actions
are both hypocritical and dangerous.
Tax evasion is a crime
– but so are bribery, stealing from one’s employer, and using insider
information obtained in breach of fiduciary duty.
The Germans have
learned nothing from their own history if there is one law for private citizens
and another law for State employees.
Yet it is not just the
Germans. The British taxman has just announced – with misplaced pride – that he
has also bought similar data from the same source.
Perhaps we should not
be surprised. In the United Kingdom, advertisements to “remind” people to pay
taxes – necessary because there are so many – have taken an increasingly
No one likes paying
taxes, but most accept some degree of moral obligation. That moral obligation
disappears when the level of taxes becomes unreasonable, or the system is seen
to be unfair. Then taxes become no more than demanding money with menaces – the
legal term for a protection racket.
Unless the taxman
makes a real effort to demonstrate that he operates on a higher moral plane, he
is no better than the Mafioso.