This morning’s YouGov daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%. At the start of the week YouGov produced an interesting string of seven point Labour leads, but with a four point lead yesterday and a five point lead today it looks as it’s business as usual. Full tabs are here.

Meanwhile the twice weekly poll from Populus has figures of CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%. Full tabs for those are here.


308 Responses to “Latest YouGov and Populus polls”

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  1. the other howard

    “I agree with the point you make. There is nothing wrong or immoral in avoiding tax, it is for Governments to ensure any loopholes are closed.”

    i disagree. It should be an offence to contravene the spirit of the law. So creating and using tax avoidance “vehicles” should be a prisonable offence. And HMRC should not be approving schemes that do not meet the spirit of the supposed “loophole”.

    If necessary the Law should be changed.

  2. Guymonde,

    “It’s not difficult to understand the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion.”

    Yet you slip from talking about tax avoidance to tax evasion within a single paragraph. In fact, within a single sentence-

    “On the odd occasion they pursue action, relatively small ‘customers’ like Chris Moyles will probably settle whilst the real big avoiders will up the ante by appeals and generally get off with a settlement of a variable proportion of the tax evaded.”

    If someone is a “big avoider” of tax, that doesn’t imply that they evade a penny of tax.

  3. @RAF

    Indeed, that is the question. I was at an interesting seminar earlier this week on Scandinavian ways of doing things. It may be difficult for us to believe, but apparently on the other side of the North Sea people willingly pay their very high taxes. Why? Because they know the state will step in and help them in their hour of need.

    Of course, in small countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway (and I almost added Scotland) the State is the same as the Community.

  4. We cannot send people to prison unless they have broken the law, however reprehensible we find their behaviour.

    The whole point of tax avoidance schemes (as opposed to tax evasion), is that they are within the law, they use facets of the tax system in ways that were not intended to reduce tax paid. Because they are legal, all HMRC can do is plug the loophole for the next year, meaning the method becomes tax evasion and people could be prosecuted… but of course, people don’t do it again, they move on to a different new rule. It’s like a tax arms race.

    (There’s an interesting parallel in legal highs – people who make them make slight chemical changes so they aren’t banned under current laws. The government ban the new drug…so the manufacturers slightly change it again. Both rely upon the fact governments, bureaucracies and laws move slowly.)

    One solution is a general tax avoidance rule. Rather than defining and banning specific abuses, make it is against the rules to use any tax rule in an abusive way (a way deliberately intended to reduce tax in an unreasonable way). The 2013 budget introduced such a rule, so I guess in the next few years we shall see how well it actually works. Presumably it will just change the nature of the beast, so it becomes the tax avoidance people trying to convince the courts that their scheme is one that a reasonable person wouldn’t have thought abusive… but even so, given some of those reported in the past could never possibly have met that criteria it should raise the bar a lot.

    (As an aside, thanks to the majority who have had a very sensible and non-partisan discussion on this. And to the minority who have tried to steer it towards a left -right, party-political back-and-forth, please stop it and go away – AW)

  5. Colin
    “My guess would be that the arty / bbc / enertainer types involved in these schemes will not be natural Conservative supporters.”

    Gary Barlow is billed as an ‘entertainer’ & the BBC had a whole day of dedication to him planned but had to scale back it’s plans after criticisms of impartiality.

    The BBC? has scaled back coverage of Gary Barlow’s new album after concerns that it might breach editorial guidelines.

    Commercial rivals had warned that Radio 2’s plans for a full day devoted to the latest release by the frontman of Take That and judge of The X-Factor could violate the BBC’s internal rules on editorial impartiality.

    Radio 2 has now dropped one of the scheduled interviews and an online question-and-answer session with Barlow. A descriptionof the 42-year-old as a “bona fide national treasure” has also been removed from the station’s website.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/medianews/article3941295.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2013_12_05

    Gary Barlow is a Conservative supporter. He canvassed alongside David Cameron prior to the 2010 GE.

    I don’t think you can assume that all “arty / bbc / entertainer types’ will not be Conservative supporters.

  6. I wonder how many people on the Thames are avoiding their tax, while complaining about the flooding?

  7. NickP,

    “It should be an offence to contravene the spirit of the law.”

    That’s even worse than the principle that “what is not permitted is forbidden”. At least with the latter principle, you can know what is or is not illegal.

  8. @John B

    All I’ve done is focus of the skew of the whole Populus sample based on 2010 recall. It doesn’t really matter how that skew breaks down across parts of GB and it doesn’t follow that it’ll be the same across each part. For GB as a whole Lab is clearly understated in the recalled 2010 vote, to the benefit of LD more than Con.

  9. “And to the minority who have tried to steer it towards a left -right, party-political back-and-forth, please stop it and go away – AW)”

    Ok if this was directed at me then fine, I’ll go but I wasn’t steering it towards a left-right at all. Rather I was bringing attention to the fact that some Tory voters are as guilty of tax evasion as non-Tory voters.

    Bye all, I’ll look in but refrain from commenting in future.

  10. Re prosecutions and Moyles, Murphy has something to say on the matter, but it would require the creation of a new criminal offence:

    http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/02/22/the-answer-to-chris-moyles-is-prosecute-the-advisers/

  11. @ Phil Haines

    Thanks for that.
    Obviously my own first port of call is the Scottish column and I am finding it increasingly difficult to work out what is happening here in my own country.

    Basically what you are saying is that Populus has to be compared with Populus and YG with YG – otherwise we are comparing apples with oranges.

  12. @NickP

    “It should be an offence to contravene the spirit of the law.”

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment in theory, but in practice, it just means that thousands, if not millions of people become criminals.

    Would drinking after 10pm be in the spirit of the law? We know that most alcohol related offences occur after 10pm, and the police are busiest then. Surely the spirit of the law is to go home at 9.55pm?

    What of politicians? The spirit of the law suggests that they be honest, and not tell porky pies about their oppos. Oops!

    It’s not workable, in other words. The politicians, the media, and all the rest are in it up to their necks, so it won’t change until the plebs are banging at the palace gates.

  13. Anthony Wells,

    “One solution is a general tax avoidance rule. Rather than defining and banning specific abuses, make it is against the rules to use any tax rule in an abusive way (a way deliberately intended to reduce tax in an unreasonable way).”

    So a jury convicting in such a case would not only be deciding on what constitutes ‘reasonable doubt’, but also on what constitutes ‘unreasonable tax reduction’. I’m not sure I’d want to be tried for any crime of that sort (imagine if copyright law or traffic law was the same).

    My solution would be a much simpler tax system. There are all sorts of advantages to a complex tax system (economic, political etc.) but it makes it far too easy to avoid (and evade) tax. This is quite apart from the illiberalism of a tax system that is so complex that no-one can be sure that they are not breaking the law, leading to dangerous situations like in the US where there have been cases of political groups being specifically targeted by tax authorities for investigation.

    The Bowles-Simpson plan in the US was estimated to be able to bring in around $75 billion, by reducing tax rates and eliminating loopholes.

    Messing with the rule of law and the ability of citizens to know if they’re breaking the law seems to be too high a price to pay, whereas a less fine-tuned tax system would be frustrating but not so high a price.

  14. @ Statgeek

    If you can’t answer your own question who can?

    But aren’t you being a little bit cynical? I have friends in the Reading area (ordinary people, not rich) whose home was protected from the Thames by the GWR embankment. Other friends of theirs were badly hit.

    Having said that, you are right to ask the question.

  15. Bill – it’s a tax rule, not a criminal offence (presumably for the reasons you say!). If HMRC decide it was abuse you have to pay the tax you’ve avoided using it.

  16. “That’s even worse than the principle that “what is not permitted is forbidden”. ”

    tosh.

    If somebody creates a vehicle to avoid tax by pretending to be something that promotes British films it is not in the spirit of whatever tax break was given to the Brit film industry.

    If it is marketed as a tax avoidance vehicle, for instance, jail for firm and investor.

    But I do think tax on earnings should be presumed to be payable unless explicitly excused. So from that point of view if you’ve earned money you should, by law, be presumed to owe tax upon it.

  17. Statgeek,

    To add to your examples: the government used anti-terrorist legislation in 2008 to seize Icelandic bank assets. That wasn’t in the spirit of the legislation, which was supposed to be for freezing the accounts of terrorist groups and the like. Should Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling be brought to the dock and tried for breaking the “spirit of the law”? I can imagine a radical right-wing/left-wing government thinking so, which is a pretty terrifying scenario.

  18. Sorry I didn’t specify: I meant Statgeek at 2.07 p.m.

    AW: Any chance of using the 24 hr clock?

  19. @John B (Was the sloop named after you? – I just spotted that :-o)

    “But aren’t you being a little bit cynical?”

    Very, but given the the likelihood of tax avoiders residing along the Thames, I feel I’m not being unfair. I have never avoided tax, and when the proverbial has hit the fan for me, I didn’t get bailed out by governments or neighbours.

    So cynical, but with fair reason.

  20. Anthony Wells,

    “If HMRC decide it was abuse you have to pay the tax you’ve avoided using it.”

    Seems to contravene the idea of a tax code to me.

    NickP,

    “tosh.”

    I’m unconvinced. Unless it is drastically inconvenient, people should be able to work out whether or not they’re breaking the law. If you extend the law to include not just the letter, but the spirit of the law, then you’re taking that ability away from everyone.

    You may say that there are some obvious cases of abuse of loopholes, but that is irrelevant, because the principle that is being contested is that we should be a nation governned by spirits rather than laws.

  21. * governed.

    And this has very little to do with tax avoidance as such (something I dislike) but the legal principles behind it, just like anti-terrorism legislation tends to be objectionable not because terrorists aren’t awful or even because of problems with the laws themselves, but the precedents and principles involved.

  22. @ Statgeek

    No. No boats have ever been named after me, nor likely to be. Nor was I named for the boat. One of my grandfathers was named John.

    As far as I know I have avoided tax on several occasions, usually by paying cash to people who refused a cheque.
    PAYE does it all as far as personal income is concerned.

  23. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against having restrictions on “unreasonable” tax behaviour. However, I think that, since “unreasonable” is vague, we ought to have some sort of thing that people could read, a document of sorts, available to citizens, which lawyers and judges could analyse (and study in reference to its interpretation in particular cases) and which would go through a democratic procedure of examination by elected representatives and passed only on their approval… We could call it a “law”…

  24. @Bill Patrick

    Don’t agree. The abuse of anti-terrorism laws threatens us all. I would have Brown and Darling answer for their abuse of a law which was not in any conceivable sense aimed at Icelanders. whose terrorist activities concluded with the Cod War of the 1970s.

  25. Sorry Bill. I meant yours of 2.21 p.m.

  26. John B,

    “As far as I know I have avoided tax on several occasions, usually by paying cash to people who refused a cheque.”

    Anyone who has used a duty-free shop has avoided tax, but to be fair to the other side on this issue, they want restrictions on MAJOR tax avoidance. The use of “tax avoidance” to refer specifically to major tax avoidance is unexceptionable sloppiness, and not problematic usually because we know what’s meant, and because there are no drastic consequences from the ambiguity.

  27. John B,

    “Don’t agree. The abuse of anti-terrorism laws threatens us all. I would have Brown and Darling answer for their abuse of a law which was not in any conceivable sense aimed at Icelanders. whose terrorist activities concluded with the Cod War of the 1970s.”

    I agree with your premise but not your conclusion. However, you do prove that my scenario of people using the notion of the spirit of the law to put politicians in jail is not so implausible, and we can see in the Ukraine the terrible things that happen when the law is used as an instrument of political control against certain persons.

    And IIRC my Scotnat family generally approved of the Icelandic side in the Cod War, because they saw it as a conflict between trawlers and ordinary fishermen. I don’t know about the subject.

  28. Chordata,
    Please don’t go.I always enjoy your comments and I am sure others do as well.

  29. @ Statgeek

    Not just the Thames, there are lots of Northern towns & cities I could mention which have vibrant black markets where cash is still king and nothing ever appears on a tax return!

  30. “The Bowles-Simpson plan in the US was estimated to be able to bring in around $75 billion, by reducing tax rates and eliminating loopholes.”

    Hi Bill P,

    If you must have income tax, why not just eliminate loopholes?

  31. Chordata, sit down!

  32. Bloody hell.

    Boring or wot?

  33. Wot’s wot?

  34. Colin Davis,

    “If you must have income tax, why not just eliminate loopholes?”

    Do you mean “Why haven’t loopholes been eliminated?” or “Why eliminate loopholes AND reduce rates?”?

  35. @Chordata

    “And to the minority who have tried to steer it towards a left -right, party-political back-and-forth, please stop it and go away – AW)”

    I may be guilty as charged too and my comment on how politicians may or not pursue tax avoiders, and the possible reasons for their reluctance, was expunged very quickly.

    However, I’m not sure that those comments that remained were quite as non partisan and balanced as Anthony claims but, c’est la vie.

    I’d still like to think that all posts are moderated even-handedly and fairly on this site. When it becomes obvious that isn’t the case, then I’ll quickly take Anthony’s advice and go away. In fact, he won’t even have to tell me to shove off.

  36. @Bill

    “Anyone who has used a duty-free shop has avoided tax”

    Fair point, depending on how pedantic one wants to be. Someone going abroad once a year and avoiding tax on 400 fags is different from someone popping over to France every month for their month’s supply of cigarettes.

    Is the avoidance a ‘fringe benefit’ of a rare event, or a regularly planned and budgeted occurrence? That’s the difference imo. Setting up a company to avoid tax is the latter.

  37. GUYMONDE

    I agree with you that the designers of avoidance schemes should face punishment too.

    RHUCKLE

    I was posting about tax avoidance. Greed is a whole new topic with much wider connotations.

    NICKP

    I think have a point about the degree of egregiousness.

    But I guess it will be difficult to define the degrees & the varying penalties. As AW says-maybe the general Tax Avoidance legislation will help.

  38. Tax avoidance is tax avoidance regardless of how it’s carried out. You can’t be moaning about 300 plus high earners involved in a tax avoidance scheme and then go and buy cheap illegally imported fags and booze or pay cash without an invoice to someone who does some work for you to avoid VAT.

  39. BANTAMS

    @”You can’t be moaning about 300 plus high earners involved in a tax avoidance scheme and then go and buy cheap illegally imported fags and booze or pay cash without an invoice to someone who does some work for you to avoid VAT.”

    I know where you’re coming from. But inthe two examples you quote which of the transactions are actually illegal :-

    Not levying VAT on your VATable supplies , and paying it over to HMRC.

    Buying stuff which has so avoided VAT.

    This is the “Moyles Defence”-the one they all use-I thought it was legal-I’m not a tax expert-this bloke offered me this thing -and I bought it.

  40. Statgeek,

    The trick that I have up my sleeve is that, if anyone thinks that they can define good vs. bad tax avoidance clearly, then we can simply change the law to include those actions, and no dilution of the rule of law or democracy is needed.

    Can you imagine what trial-by-media would be like if laws were based on the “spirit” rather than the letter of the law? As it is, it astounds me how terrible we’ve allowed trial-by-media to become. It’s amazing to talk to older journalists to find out the kinds of (informal) rights enjoyed by the accused in the old days.

  41. @ Colin

    Chances are the trader providing the service for cash without VAT is not going to show this anywhere in his paperwork so also avoiding income or corporation tax & NI.

  42. @BILL P

    “On the odd occasion they pursue action, relatively small ‘customers’ like Chris Moyles will probably settle whilst the real big avoiders will up the ante by appeals and generally get off with a settlement of a variable proportion of the tax evaded.”

    OK I plead guilty to a terminological inexactitude.
    By definition, what started off billed as avoidance has been determined by the courts to be evasion. You will notice I end the remark with ‘the tax evaded’ rather than ‘the tax avoided’.

    My point, I suppose, is that tax *management* on that woolly fringe between avoidance and evasion is treated as a bit of a sport. Jolly tax management consultants think up some new wheeze, sign up some punters and away you go. Some time later HMRC cotton on to it and challenge it in court. If HMRC fail – trebles all round, tax has been effectively avoided, sell it to as many punters as possible until the loophole can be closed. If HMRC succeed, the ones who were caught have to cough up their tax and a penalty and the consultants switch resources to whichever other wheeze they are running.
    My contention, simply, is that where these things are shown to be evasion (by the courts, via rule of law) then the fraudsters (because that’s what they are) should face severe penalties, including prison.

  43. @bantams
    Following your logic: theft is theft. Someone who pinches a bottle of milk is as guilty as someone who embezzles millions. I hope you’re not a magistrate.

  44. Guymonde,

    I don’t dispute that, although one has to keep in mind that where there’s a grey area we tend not to make the penalties TOO severe.

  45. The problem with any discussion about tax avoidence is it depends what you mean by that. My wife and I pay what income taxes which are due without complaint but we do increase our investments mainly by investing in new ISA’s every year. Now an ISA is ameans of tax avoidence but it has been actively promoted by Governments of all colours. I would suggest that there is absolutely nothing antisocial or immoral in doing so, but it is a means of building large scale investments which do not incur tax charges when sold.

  46. @BILL P

    And I agree about the rule of law being preserved. I guess a jury can decide whether a scheme has been designed as purely or primarily a tax avoidance plan (in which case it should be legislated against and severe penalties applied) or something which has tax avoidance as a side effect of a more substantial activity (in which case no problem)
    A tax EVASION plan doesn’t need any legislation, I imagine.

  47. Valerie,

    They’re both GUILTY. Guilt and not guilty are binary opposits: you can’t be “more not guilty” and you can’t be “more guilty”, anymore than you can be “more dead” or “more pregnant”.

    However, it’s true that two people who are guilty of the same offence can deserve punishments of different kinds (if any). I doubt that Bantams would deny that.

  48. @Valerie

    Theft is theft, regardless of the proceeds. The punishment might be different, according to the scale of the theft.

  49. Guymonde,

    I don’t know about that level of detail, but I think that legislation against a scheme would make jury decision re: tax avoidance superfluous. Even then (and I hate doing this, because it makes me sound like some sort of apologist) the law must not be retroactively applied, as retroactive legislation is impossible for as long as we still have the Human Rights Act i.e. you can’t be prosecuted for something that wasn’t illegal when you did it.

  50. Re moderation.
    I think the best response to it is
    “Never complain, never explain”.
    Dunno who first coined that. Royalty, Kate Moss?

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