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T E X T 1
Taxation (and how to avoid it!)
Read the text and do the tasks that follow.
A The primary function of taxation is, of course, to raise revenue to finance government expenditure, but taxes can also have other purposes. Indirect excise duties, for example, can be designed to dissuade people from smoking, drinking alcohol, and so on. Governments can also encourage capital investment by permitting various methods of accelerated depreciation accounting that allow companies to deduct more of the cost of investments from their profits, and consequently reduce their tax bills.
B There is always a lot of debate as to the fairness of tax systems. Business profits, for example, are generally taxed twice: companies pay tax on their profits (corporation tax in Britain, income tax in the USA), and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. Income taxes in most countries are progressive, and are one of the ways in which governments can redistribute wealth. The problem with progressive taxes is that the marginal rate - the tax people pay on any additional income - is always high, which is generally a disincentive to both working and investing. On the other hand, most sales taxes are slightly regressive, because poorer people need to spend a larger proportion of their income on consumption than the rich.
С The higher the tax rates, the more people are tempted to cheat, but there is a substantial 'black' or ‘underground' economy nearly everywhere. In Italy, for example, self-employed people - whose income is more difficult to control than that of company employees - account for more than half of national income. Lots of people also have undeclared, part-time evening jobs (some people call this 'moonlighting') with small and medium-sized family firms, on which no one pays any tax or national insurance. At the end of 1986, the Director of the Italian National Institute of Statistics calculated the size of the underground economy, and added 16.7℅ to Italy's gross national product (GNP) figure, and then claimed that Italy had overtaken Britain to become the world's fifth largest economy.
D To reduce income tax liability, some employers give highly-paid employees lots of 'perks' (short for perquisites) instead of taxable moneу, such as company cars, free health insurance, and subsidized lunches. Legal ways of avoiding tax, such as these, are known as loopholes in tax laws. Life insurance policies, pension plans and other investments by which individuals can postpone the payment of tax, are known as tax shelters. Donations to charities that can be subtracted from the income on which tax is calculated are described as tax-deductible.
E Companies have a variety of ways of avoiding tax on profits. They can bring forward capital expenditure (on new factories, machines, and so on) so that at the end of the year all the profits have been used up; this is known as making a tax loss. Multinational companies often set up their head offices in countries such as Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas, where taxes are low; such countries are known as tax havens. Criminal organizations, meanwhile, tend to pass money through a series of companies in very complicated transactions in order to disguise its origin from tax inspectors – and the police; this is known as laundering money.
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