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The tax affairs of listed companies

The suggestion made by Margaret Hodge who chairs the Public Accounts Committee that the tax affairs of publicly quoted companies should ‘be opened to public account’ (The Times 25 June) has a superficial attraction. Daylight is famously the best disinfectant so would not greater transparency help HMRC to clear up tax avoidance the pressures of publicity helping to persuade large taxpayers to pay their share?

A little thought on how it would really work quickly dispels the enthusiasm. Any expert who reads about his own subject in the press will tell you that it is badly misreported. That is not because journalists mean to mislead the public but because of the difficulty they face in assessing specialist material within an acceptable timeframe. Nowhere is that more the case than with tax where the longest tax code in the world...

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