Tax avoidance: Acceptable when legal?

William JordanUS Elections Editor
June 29, 2013, 9:43 AM GMT+0

About half or more of the public in France, Germany and Denmark think it is acceptable to legally avoid paying tax

One result of the recent G8 Summit in Northern Ireland was the Lough Erne Declaration, a pro forma agreement between all eight nations –including the United Kingdom – to share domestic tax information and work together to reduce corporate tax evasion.

YouGov’s EuroTrack poll surveys public opinion in seven European countries and asked voters their views on the G8 and tax havens. The new research reveals stark differences of opinion on tax avoidance: people in France, Germany and Denmark find legal tax avoidance acceptable by 55%, 50% and 48%, respectively; but people in Sweden, Great Britain, Finland and Norway find the practice unacceptable by 64%, 62%, 49% and 48%, respectively.

Legal tax avoidance is distinct from the illegal practice of tax evasion, although companies employing legal means to minimize their tax burden in countries have been criticised extensively.

Support for unilateral action by tax havens

More predictably, a majority of the public in each country surveyed believes countries regarded as tax havens should act immediately and unilaterally to change the rules so that companies could not hide profits and avoid paying tax elsewhere.

The Danish people were most likely to support such unilateral action, with 67% supportive and only 12% favoring rule changes that would only occur when all countries agree, in order to avoid disadvantaging smaller countries while simply sending the problem elsewhere. In comparison, the British public favor unilateral action by tax havens over group action by 51% to 26%.

Two territories frequently labeled “tax havens” for their arguably low tax rates and secretive banking practices, the Isle of Man and Jersey, say they are simply being made “scapegoats” by the G8 and accuse President Obama of employing a double standard by turning a blind eye to questionable tax policies in the U.S. state of Delaware.

See the full poll results

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