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The changing limits of acceptable tax avoidance

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The Duke of Westminster principle is no longer sacrosanct. The courts increasingly apply a purposive interpretation to defeat artificial tax avoidance schemes, the DOTAS rules gives HMRC early warning of aggressive schemes, and a general anti-abuse rule will be introduced in 2013. The European Commission is also seeking to clamp down on complex and artificial cross-border arrangements. The distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion has become blurred and, although successful in 1930, the Duke’s attempt to reduce his surtax bill would now be regarded by many as unacceptable and morally repugnant.

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