Avoidance and Evasion
Copy-editors and Proofreaders must get it right
In the seemingly endless run up to the general election, the topic of tax, more particularly the non-payment of tax, has again become a political weapon. In the good old days before this Parliament no-one knew when the election was going to be called. The uncertainty added a small frisson to the party political humbug, and journalists could play “what if” games in the Sunday press. The campaign lasted a few weeks, just about all we could stand. Now we have five or six months when the machinery of government suspends animation and we are the victims of the bluff, double bluff and screeching of all the parties. By the time the election comes any thrill will have long gone.
So the avoidance or evasion of tax by the rich and not-so-rich has been the subject of acres of print, TV, radio and digital space. For the proofreader and copy-editor it matters not whether you are a fascist or commie; all that matters in the tax debate is that you know your avoidance from your evasion! It really is important and many journalists seem to use the terms indiscriminately. Very dangerous!
It’s simple, but anyone proofreading or copy-editing must remember it: evasion is a crime; avoidance is legal.
Most of the mud which has been chucked recently has hit tax avoiders, people who have, within the law, paid as little tax as possible, or at least reduced their tax bills, sometimes with the help of schemes created by accountants. Many people avoid tax through ISAs and the government encourages it. We all claim all the tax allowances we can within the law; we pay into pensions and give gifts to our children, perhaps, within the limits. But the big avoiders, what have been called by the government, aggressive avoiders, are working on a vastly different scale and we then move into political waters which this blog avoids. But whatever they do, short of evasion, is not illegal. Tax evaders should go to jail; tax avoiders just get a bad press and disappear to a house on a remote island while it all blows over.
The Value of Copy-editors and Proofreaders
So, when you are copy-editing or proofreading be very careful to check that your author has got it right, and if you have the slightest doubt go back to them to make sure. To say that someone has evaded tax when they have avoided it would be defamatory and an action for damages could be brought against the author or publisher, or both. And to imply that avoidance is a crime would also put them in an awkward situation if a particular person were named as an avoider.
A sharp-eyed proofreader or copy-editor could be worth their weight in gold in picking up on errors like these. Of course, unless we are paid to be legal experts we cannot be expected to correct an author’s legal blunders. But this simple distinction is one that everyone should be aware of. But remember that you should always query the point with the author: don’t make the change without checking first.