In Britain, you’re better off to be a rich and successful tax dodger than a poor and hapless one


It’s good to be the king! AP Images / Joerg Sarbach

In an ongoing name and shame campaign designed to deter tax dodgers, the UK government today published a list with pictures of the “top tax cheats” of 2012. The 32 alleged criminals have been sentenced to a combined total of more than 150 years in jail, according to a statement by David Gauke, exchequer secretary to the Treasury. “The Government is committed to closing in on tax evaders,” he said, adding: ”We hope that publishing these pictures will help get across that it always makes sense to declare all your income, and tax dodgers are simply storing up trouble for the future.”

Those included are Chaudray Ali, sentenced to six years for failing to pay around £2 million ($2.6 million) in customs duty while importing Chinese garlic. He’s on the run, according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Then there’s Robert Doran, sentenced to prison with a gang of others for smuggling cigarettes on shipping documents listing babies’ toys and evading an estimated £3.3 million. The gang was caught. You can read about the rest of the rogues here.

It’s a whole different game if you’re rich and successful at getting away at paying less in tax than is due. Although, those named and shamed for tax fraud also committed other crimes beyond tax evasion, it’s notable that just after Christmas the UK offered to write off some debts of tax avoiders that included UK bankers, hedge fund managers and celebrities with an estimated £3.5 billion in unpaid taxes. Those named by the Guardian for participating in tax-motivated partnerships, which allow participants to legally exploit the tax regime to their own advantage like multinationals Starbucks and Amazon have done, include football stars Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, vacuum tycoon James Dyson, and pop stars Peter Gabriel and Robbie Williams.

Of course in the end, the British government needs cash and is trying to get it in the best way it can. In 2011, HMRC generated some £3 billion from 1,200 tax avoiders using Liechtenstein as an off-shore tax haven. The government offered a 10% penalty, and treated the cases as if they were honest mistakes on tax returns.

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