Letters: From Harley St to Fred the plumber – transparency and tax returns

Letters: Please get the definitions correct. ISAs and pension premiums etc are not tax-avoidance devices – they are paying £1 to save £0.40 as directed by the government

As a veteran tax planner and business expansion adviser, I wholly agree with Polly Toynbee's call for the publication of tax returns (Let every citizen's finances be open to public scrutiny, 10 April). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development calculates there is $18 trillion in tax havens – enough to pay the fiscal deficits of Greece, the EU, the US, the UK and of all the countries in the world. Publication is a first step to identifying the siphons to tax havens and reversing the flow.

But please get the definitions correct. Ken Livingstone has a limited liability company to limit his liabilities, as most professionals would advise regardless of taxes. Isas and pension premiums etc are not tax-avoidance devices – they are paying £1 to save 40p as directed by the government.

Avoidance is fiddling the books in a quasi-legal way, to not pay taxes. Most of the "avoidance" that journalists fawningly qualify as "… but of course in a legal way" is not legal – as in UK law transactions have to be real, commercial and arm's-length. Putting a brass plate on a wall in Vaud, Switzerland and routing money via it is illegal – whether it is Google, high-street stores, Harley St Dental Inc or Fred the plumber – unless the trade in Vaud is real, with real people and on commercial terms. Most such transactions since 1980 have been illegal in this country and could and should be reversed. Tax evasion usually requires the owner to hide and lie. It is time to get HMRC enforcing the law.
Noel Hodson

• I see that Polly Toynbee states that "we would soon look back on privacy as a cheat's charter". In other words, and in common with advocates of the identity card and erstwhile employees of the News of the World, the only people who believe in privacy are those with something to hide. And she wonders why people aren't voting Labour.
Marcello Carlin

• Presumably Polly Toynbee practises what she preaches. So if she'll show me hers, I'll show her mine!
Alan Sykes
Harden, West Yorkshire

• In Polly Toynbee's article, suggesting tax transparency, she failed to mention that the scope of a tax return is limited and would not include any welfare unless it was subject to tax (for example, jobseeker's allowance). As a City tax lawyer, living in a one-bedroom flat in north London, I would be very happy for my neighbours to see my tax returns. All I would ask is that the same transparency should apply to any welfare they receive, whether it is taxed or not, given that it is paid for from my taxes. Perhaps I might then understand how the never-employed citizens of Islington can afford to live in houses that the vast majority of taxpayers could never afford.
Stephen Edwards

• If anyone is thinking that increases in income tax personal allowance might offset the reductions in tax credits (Bleak Friday for thousands of poor families, 6 April), bear in mind that for every extra £1 in what is gracefully termed "excess income", council tax benefit is reduced by 65p. The poor are taxed at 65%.
Miles Halpin
Matlock, Derbyshire

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