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Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

Festive Musings

17 December 2012

The tax avoidance bandwagon rolls on.  Referring to the inclination of some to contribute to the Treasury’s tax kitty, the Chief Secretary has a seasonal swipe at the multinational corporations.  Danny Alexander is reported to have suggested that some multinationals view corporation tax ‘like the church plate going round on a Sunday morning’.

At first read, that may be seen as highly insulting to regular church-goers who make a clear commitment of (time, talents and not just) money in support of the cause.  They certainly don’t regard their contribution as ‘a voluntary choice’ as suggested by Mr Alexander.  The traditional church plate is no longer the method of first choice for most members either.  Nowadays, the large majority of offerings are made by regular bank payment … and I can speak with some authority on that having served as Treasurer at Craiglockhart Parish Church.

However, on closer inspection, Mr Alexander’s analogy is maybe spot on, even if unintended.  If attending himself, he may have noted that a few in the pews allow the plate to ‘pass’.  But from that it certainly can’t be concluded that the individual makes no contribution because, as I have said, that commitment is already being met through the banking system.  Perhaps that’s not unlike the multinational corporations who are filling out the forms and making payment of their tax liabilities.

But there are many church-goers who make those regular standing order payments and who still cannot let the plate pass without offering something more of what they have; each giving according to means.  That is done not instead of their existing commitment but in addition to it.  And maybe that’s where Mr Alexander’s analogy gets closer to the mark because the multinationals may have been ‘persuaded’ that they wish to make additional contributions, not because they haven’t already met their tax liabilities … but simply because they have more to give.  The end result may be the same, it’s just the motives that may differ.

I hope Danny Alexander will be able to get first-hand experience of church-giving over the Festive Season.  Merry Christmas.


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