We Asked Normal People If They Would Avoid Tax If They Were Loaded

Are ordinary Brits any more moral than a tax dodging oligarch?

by Sophia Hyatt
06 April 2016, 5:00am

The Panama Canal (Photo by sergejf)

This week has seen the biggest leak of documents in history. In rarified boardrooms and country mansions, the plutocrats of the world spat out their champagne in shock as worldwide sales of industrial-sized paper shredders rocketed. Those caught in the web of tax avoidance revelations include politicians, drug lords and FIFA officials, to name just a few. All that from one tranche of documents – it's enough to make you wonder if it's easier to count the oligarchs who don't avoid taxes.

You probably think you're better than all that. I bet you think you're far too morally righteous to even consider tucking a bit of money away from HMRC if you ever got enough of it to be worth bothering with. Or are you? We took to the streets to find out if the Great British Public would ever dodge a bit of tax.

Marit, 37 and Cara, 35, both work in software.

VICE: If you were loaded, would you try to avoid paying tax?
Cara: I would say no. I like paying tax.
Marit: You should pay your dues.

Why do you like paying tax?
C: Because I want to pay tax. That's a part of the society I want to be a part of. Marit is Norwegian, so I imagine Norway is very good at paying high tax.
M: Yes, you pay a lot of tax, but you also get taken care of. There's a load of benefits to paying tax. I think you have to play your role in society, and part of that role is paying tax.

Say you weren't so up for paying your taxes, what would you spend the evaded cash on?
M: Hookers? No, I'm joking.
C: Probably travelling?
M: Maybe I would try to buy a house? But travel definitely.
C: That's a good use of cash: memories.

Maybe these tax avoiding oligarchs are chasing memories, too. Which offshore tax haven would you like to go to most?
M: Maybe Seychelles – I've heard good things about that.
C: Or, like, Bahamas?
M: No, actually, I will go with the smallest one because there is likely to be fewer people evading tax evasion there.

Left to right: Simon, 20, works at a creative agency; Terence, 30, is the deputy editor of a magazine; Johnson, 24, is the editor-in-chief of a magazine

If you could afford expensive accountants, would you try to avoid paying your taxes?
Johnson: I wouldn't avoid it, because it's not really fair. The ones that do have money should pay tax because they are rich already. They can help the community more, rather than someone that's suffering to pay their rent while the tax is taking half their money, leaving them with £100 to eat for a month.
Terence: Personally, it depends. If there were legal means to evade taxes, I would explore that option, because at the end of the day, everyone is trying to increase their wealth.

Consider for a moment abandoning your moral duty to society and illegally dodging your taxes. What would you spend the money on?
J: I would spend the money on life. And when I say life, I mean holidays, exploring outside London. Taking more time and just enjoying life. A lot of people are so restricted and they don't get to spend that money and enjoy life. They pay up to a certain point where it's their rent, their money and their bills. Then, what do you have left? Life is short, so why should the government take 50 percent of their hard work? It's just not fair.
T: Travel the world, buy beautiful clothes. Yeah, why not?
Simon: Same, really. Just enjoy the money.

Which offshore tax haven would you like to go to most?
T: Probably the British Virgin Islands, because it's closer to home.
J: It depends on how much tax you save. It's about how much you put in and how much you get in return. I might go further out, as right now London is not doing it for me.

Karl, 32, graphic designer

Do you think David Cameron should feel the heat because of his dad's tax avoidance?
Karl: Essentially, he is not his dad, although he has family ties to him. So it depends what he does himself as a person.

So it's about individual accountability?
That's correct. I don't think the previous generation should hold you back.

Which offshore tax haven would you like to go to most?
To be honest, I've just been skiing in Andorra. So, if that's still a tax haven, it seems pretty sweet.

Did you have a good time skiing?
Yeah, amazing.


Daisy, 25, outreach manager and Julia, 31, PR manager

If you were loaded, would you try to avoid paying tax?
Julia: Absolutely not.
Daisy: No way.

Why would you not want to avoid paying tax?
J: Well, because if you have loads of money, you can afford to pay tax.
D: I think it's fair to put back into the country you're living in.

What do you think of politicians evading tax?
D: They are supposed to be representing our society. They're supposed to be the people speaking on behalf of us. So, if they're not paying their taxes, they're not good role models.

What would you spend the money on?
J: Personally, I don't have any ambition to be rich. I think you just need to have what you need in order to survive, and have a pleasant life. Anything else you have extra, you can just give back.

Do you think tax evasion is a big deal?
D: It's a huge deal.
J: Some people paying taxes may not have as much money to throw away. Those that do have more money to throw away could change everything.


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