David Jetuah, Accountancy Age, Thursday 17 June 2010 at 15:52:00

John Pugh MP hits out at profession for facilitating tax avoidance, a claimwhich was shot down by accountant Nigel Mills MP

MPs have clashed on the role of accountants in helping individuals avoid tax.

At a Westminster debate yesterday, John Pugh MP hit out at the profession forthe advice given to clients by saying, "the only real difference or line betweenevasion and avoidance is the thickness of a prison wall," pinpointing the roleof accountants in tax planning activities.

"There are some well rewarded people in the City whose life is almostentirely dedicated to some form of tax avoidance or tax planning-whatever theywant to call it-which they regard as an entirely legitimate enterprise."

However, accountant Nigel Mills MP hit back at the claims.

"Until the election, I was employed by one of the large firms of accountants,although I assure Dr Pugh that I was not involved in tax avoidance," Mills said.

"My role was to seek up-front agreements with Her Majesty's Revenue andCustoms, which was generally more than happy to enter into such agreements withmy clients.

"I am not guilty of the things of which he accuses accountants."

Pugh also called for general anti-avoidance rules to be introduced to widenthe net for catching errant taxpayers, but Mills shot down this option.

"We need to increase tax revenue, so we need to attract taxpayers to the UKand encourage them to remain here,"said Mills.

"A general anti-avoidance rule in principle may not be a brilliant way ofdoing that."