15 DECEMBER 1950, Page 3

The Artful Dodgers

There are a number of other morals, apart from the moral of crime and punishment, attached to the announcement by the Comp- troller and Auditor-General that in the last financial year £5,054,070 was recovered from tax-evaders. The number of " settlements " involved was 1,886, and without allowing for the fact that there were possibly fewer offenders than there were settlements, the average amount involved in each fraud or evasion was over £2,500. What is more, in 225 settlements made through the special branch of the Inland Revenue investigating important frauds, the amount involved was £2,625,712, or well over £10,000 per case. These are staggering figures, even when allowance is made for the fact that the investigators, acting on the time-honoured tax principle of "when you see a head, hit it," probably go for the biggest offenders first. If the distribution of tax evaders among the various income groups is anything like the distribution of income itself then there must be enormous numbers of medium and small offenders and the haul of " settlements " would quite certainly be worth having, whether the point of view is that of the Exchequer, or of the honest citizen who pays his taxes and whose burden is increased by the evasions of others less honest. In fact the Board of Inland Revenue, expressing itself with due caution after careful investigation, confirms the view that evasion is serious and widespread. And yet the number of trained inspectors has been allowed to fall below the pre-war level of 1,800 and the starting salary offered for this peculiarly arduous type of public service is £360. With taxable incomes higher than ever before this simply does not make sense.