Actress Emma Thompson Refuses To Pay Taxes Over HSBC Scandal

The right to protest may be fundamental, but tax protests seem to be treated differently than many others. Despite free speech protections, some arguments about taxes can be viewed as almost incendiary, a little like yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Even the Canadian government has cracked down on tax protesters.

Not long ago, about 80 tax investigators and others in law enforcement served warrants as part of an investigation of suspected tax protesters. Canadian Revenuers have been on the lookout for illegal tax schemes and those who promote them. So is the IRS, and the Brits may be at it too. But the big tax story in the UK is over HSBC.

Emma Thompson and her actor husband Greg Wise vow to stop paying taxes until the British government launches a crackdown on schemes that help the wealthy shield their riches. The pair want the culprits in the HSBC tax evasion scandal to go to prison, says Greg Wise.

Emma Thompson and Greg Wise

The couple hope to launch a protest movement over allegations that HSBC helped clients avoid their hefty tax bills in Britain. The HSBC story won’t end and has become a political football. But Ms. Thompson and Mr. Wise hope a mass tax boycott will make the U.K. version of the IRS penalize Britain’s upper crust tax cheats.

It sounds like a reverse Tea Party, with demands that tax cheats pay and go to jail. Yet ironically, jail could be in store for protesters too, which the couple appear to recognize. Yet others in Britain note that failing to pay taxes isn’t the answer to get someone else to pay taxes. As a director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said, more tax evasion isn’t much of a solution to tax evasion.

In the U.S., a tax protester usually means someone who denies the authority of the IRS. In 1998, Congress prohibited the IRS from labeling people as “illegal tax protesters.” Congress even ordered the IRS to purge the “protester” code from the computer files of 57,000 Americans. However, a report issued by the Treasury’s watchdog Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says IRS employees still use the epithet.

The term turns up in their case narratives, despite legal guidelines prohibiting the use of illegal tax protester designations. The report said that the continued use of “Illegal Tax Protester” and similar labels stigmatizes taxpayers and causes IRS employees to be biased against them. The report found 38 cases where 34 employees called taxpayers “Tax Protester,” “Constitutionally Challenged,” or something similar.

via The Tax Lawyer


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