Legal v moral

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A bizarre expression sprang up in my mind: “verbal emetic”. Indeed, it fairly erupted into my thoughts, threatening expulsion of my breakfast cereal. I’d just read that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, had declared his disgust at the Starbucks coffee chain for failing in its “moral duty” to pay business taxes in the UK. He is so upset by this iniquity he has ­decided to boycott the firm.

Accustomed as I am to endemic hypocrisy among politicians, I was nevertheless stunned by this shameless posturing.

This is, as I recall, the same Mr Alexander who gained £37,000 in parliamentary expenses by listing his London flat as his second home. However, he declared the same flat to HMRC as his main residence in order to avoid capital gains tax when he sold it. All legal and above board, as you would expect an MP’s behaviour to be. It’s still tax avoidance, though, so surely immoral?

But the same legality applies to the tax avoidance measures employed by Starbucks, Amazon and Google, which also have a proper duty to maximise profit for their shareholders.

If politicians are too lazy or inept to arrange effective legislation, they can’t blame anyone for taking advantage of the resulting situation.

Robert Dow

Ormiston Road

Tranent, East Lothian