"I have no idea whether Ian Cameron, the Prime Minister’s father, was a tax planner, a tax dodger or a tax evader."by Peter Kellner / April 11, 2016 / Leave a comment
For once, I am with David Cameron. A number of Sunday papers said that his mother’s gift of £200,000 was a tax “dodge.” The Mail on Sunday used the word in its front page headline. It was no such thing. But the issue goes deeper than this particular transaction. The reporting of the whole “Panama Papers” leak saga has been bedevilled by sloppy language.
Most, if not all, of us know the difference between tax avoidance, which is legal, and tax evasion, which is criminal. The newspapers have been careful to describe most of the behaviour disclosed by the leaked Panama documents as tax avoidance. The papers regularly trot out a statement along the lines of: “there is no evidence that this was illegal.” However, we are led to believe that the behaviour was in some way wrong.
This is not good enough. The problem is the term “tax avoidance.” It is too elastic. It allows journalists with not quite enough evidence of wrongdoing to imply misbehaviour while inserting the “no evidence” phrase as a device to avoid being sued for libel.