Of course, while I was away, the government and it's well-healed friends were getting their knickers in knots over who was better at avoiding tax. The Budget - which appears to have had more booby traps in it than an Afghan highway - wants to limit the amount the rich can write off against tax. The whole thing has blown up in the face of the Big Society government with donors cancelling future giving hand over fist because they won't be able to write it off against tax.
Now, I'm a basic rate tax payer and I give to charity. When I do so, I sign a gift aid declaration so that the charity gets a little extra as a result of the tax I've paid on the donation (averaged out at 25%) being given to the charity. How come some people are able to write their donations off against the tax they pay? Apparently, according to David Cameron no less, some very rich people only pay 10% income on their earnings. How does that happen? Well, one reason of course is that our tax system is labyrinthine, a chartered accountants wet dream. Another appears to be that some people put their income into charities that, in the words of a Downing Street spokesman, don't seem to offer much by way of public benefit.
Clearly, some people are taking the mick and need to be stopped. But the slapdash way that it was announced in the budget has spooked the very charities that the big society is meant to be supporting. Of course, the charity that I'm involved with doesn't face this problem directly because we don't have anyone making huge personal donations.
The thing is that if the government is really serious about tax avoidance, it would go after the deals that are fairly commonly enjoyed by senior bankers (and other 'captains of industry'), where their tax bill is picked up by their employers in the interests of equalisation between tax regimes. Pull the other one!
The latest to have a fuss made about it is Bob Diamond of Barclays (you can read about it here). The bank is picking up his tax liability of £5.7m (for last year), so he doesn't have to (memo to the church...can you please employ me via my Lichtenstein shell company and pay my tax bill in the interests of equalisation?). He'll be doing it again in the current tax year and the one after that. No one's worth what he's costing us.
If the government nails this kind of shenanigans, then we'll know it's serious about tax avoidance. Until then it's just so much hot air