Where this happens it must be due either to a deliberate ploy or due to naivety. I appreciate that some publishers may fall into the latter category. But there is no excuse when an author claims to be a tax expert and has evidently written the hyperbole themself. It is the deliberate intention to mislead that I hate.
In this context I recently came across an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) report that upheld a number of complaints against the direct mail promotional pieces for a publication allegedly written by "a specialist tax advisor" who claims to have:
"been in this game for over twenty years. I have worked closely with ex-Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise Inspectors for most of my working life, so I do know what I'm talking about. My clients are mostly wealthy people who I assist to avoid paying tax ... my client list is full and I can take on no more people. And yet I have a yearning to distribute my specialist knowledge to as wide an audience as possible."The ASA upheld complaints that a number of the promotional statements used in the direct mail piece were misleading in so far as the book "How to avoid paying taxes" was concerned:
The publishers asserted that the statement "Paying tax is entirely a question of personal choice" was correct. They said that individuals could use trusts, offshore tax structures and tax havens to avoid paying tax. They said a simple strategy to avoid paying taxes was to move offshore either physically, by incorporation, by using trusts or moving all assets offshore; they said strategies incorporating some or all of those options might allow an individual to eliminate paying any UK taxes.
The ASA considered that the claim "paying tax is entirely a question of personal choice" in the mailing implied that all readers could choose to stop paying all UK taxes if they wished. Because that was not true, the Authority concluded that the claim was misleading. It told the advertisers not to use the claim in future.
The publishers asserted that the statement "How to cut your income tax bill in half, literally" was true as the book explained how individuals could halve their income tax bills, for example, by redistributing assets between spouses, using dividends, using tax free investment vehicles, establishing trusts and incorporating private companies.
The Authority acknowledged that the book explained how tax deductions on savings and assets could be reduced and how self-employed individuals could reduce their income tax payments. It considered that the claim "how to cut your income tax bill in half, literally" would be understood by readers to mean that the book explained how tax on earnings could be reduced by most readers and not just the self-employed. It concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading. It told the advertisers not to repeat the claim.
The publishers asserted that the statement "How any self-employed person can defer paying taxes indefinitely" was true as self-employed persons could defer income taxes by incorporating their businesses and using offshore vehicles. They said the statement "how any self-employed person could defer paying taxes indefinitely" referred specifically to the deferral of Capital Gains Tax on the sale of a business.
The Authority considered that the claim "how any self-employed person could defer paying taxes indefinitely" would be understood by readers to imply that the book explained how all self-employed persons could defer paying all taxes indefinitely, and not Capital Gains Tax on the sale of businesses only. The Authority told the publishers to qualify the claim in future to make clear that it referred to Capital Gains Tax on the sale of businesses only.
The ASA report in question is three years old (it's dated 24th August 2005) . However the same alleged author and (presumably the same publisher) are still promoting what appears to be much the same book via a number of websites. And on those websites we still find the three offending statements:
- Paying Tax Is Entirely A Question Of Personal Choice;
- How to cut your income tax bill in half, literally; and
- How any self-employed person can defer paying taxes indefinitely.