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Anorak | Is Oxfam’s tax planning just tax avoidance?

Is Oxfam’s tax planning just tax avoidance?

by | 20th, May 2016

When Oxfam began to bemoan ‘tax avoidance’, it was inevitable some would cast their eyes on the charity’s tax affairs. Oxfam is hot on everyone paying there ‘fair share’, having published such articles as:

EU Anti-Tax Avoidance package will fail to end the era of tax havens, warns Oxfam – Despite EU intentions to crack down on tax avoidance, the European Commission’s Anti-Tax Avoidance Package does not do what it says on the tin, warns Oxfam, and developing countries will feel the EU’s failure most.

Large-scale tax avoidance by Starbucks & Fiat: European Union must now act on tax dodging

Oxfam applauds the European Parliament’s hard fought victory for transparency in the extractives sector

Oxfam reaction to EU leaders’ timid ambition to clamp down on tax dodging

You get the idea.

As does the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Richard Teacher, who writes:

While it is commonly assumed that charities are exempt from tax, that is not actually the case. Although they are exempt from tax on certain types of income (from donations, rent or investments), the profits they make on business or “trading” operations are taxable, except in specific circumstances. By setting out the very limited circumstances in which trading profits are exempt (see section 524 of the Income Taxes Act 2007), Parliament made it very clear that it intends charities’ other business income to be taxable.
The reaction of Oxfam, and most of the other charities, has been to run their business operations through a separate company. That company would be taxable on its profits, but it donates all its profits to its parent charity through the “Gift Aid” scheme, which exempts them from tax.

This fits the standard definition of tax avoidance – an artificial structure (separating out some of the charity’s activities into a separate legal entity) that gives it a tax advantage.
Of course I do not think there is anything wrong with Oxfam doing this; like all good tax avoidance it is perfectly legal and it is an ingenious way to escape a tax liability. But should Oxfam really be criticising other businesses for avoiding taxes when it does just that with its own?

That question might well be rhetorical.

 



Posted: 20th, May 2016 | In: Money, News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink