Criminal Justice and Taxation

Peter Alldridge

£60, OUP

Taxation is, famously, one of life’s certainties. Tax evasion, avoidance and mitigation are often in the news. In this readable book, Professor Alldridge sets out the history of taxation in this country – and the ongoing efforts of those who decline to refresh the exchequer to the required level.

The tensions between the attitude of the Board of Inland Revenue (collect money) and HM Revenue & Customs (prosecute evaders and smugglers), particularly when the two bodies were amalgamated, are neatly traced. Alldridge also describes the movement from inspection (for example, window tax, from which early form of evasion by bricking up we derive the phrase ‘daylight robbery’) to self-declaration.

The book charts the move from the so-called ‘Revenue Rule’, whereby one state would not assist another in tax collection, to a culture of multinational cooperation.

Alldridge also convincingly explains why tax evasion should be viewed as a criminal wrong – one that should apply not only to those who fail to pay tax due, but also to those who advise the avoider. This raises issues of client confidentiality, privilege and whistleblowing.

That evasion is hard to prosecute is not so much a failure of the criminal justice system, argues the author, but rather a reflection of a dynamic where taxpayers and their advisers find new means of avoidance and legislators play ‘catch up’.

This book also sets out the civil alternatives to prosecuting tax evasion and examines the potential pitfalls that await the investigator who seeks to use civil powers to cloak a criminal investigation. The interrelation between tax evasion and the criminal law with Proceeds of Crime Act consequences are well detailed. A persuasive argument is made as to why, if there is tax evasion, there is no criminal property to confiscate.

The book would appeal to the practitioner and the academic alike as a guide to the law, and as a prompt to further reflection.

The author concludes with the rhetorical question: ‘Should more alleged tax-

avoiders be prosecuted?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, then that requires resource, which the reputed increase in HMRC staff is intended to provide and, ironically, is what taxation is intended for.

Adrian Lower is a district judge (magistrates’ courts)