Tax avoidance and tax evasion

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While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, another is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.
Henry C. Link
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Tax avoidance and tax evasion are narrowly differentiated concepts arising from systems with expansive tax regulations. Tax avoidance is the legal utilization of the tax regime to one's own advantage, in order to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law; By contrast tax evasion is the general term for efforts to not pay taxes by illegal means.


  • We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.
    • Leona Helmsley, American property tycoon, New York Times (July 12, 1989); Newsweek (July 24, 1989), p. 11. Helmsley later served 19 months in prison for tax evasion.
  • No man in this country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or to his property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel into his stores.
  • Every man is entitled if he can to order his affairs so as that the tax attaching under the appropriate Acts is less than it otherwise would be. If he succeeds in ordering them so as to secure this result, then, however unappreciative the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or his fellow taxpayers may be of his ingenuity, he cannot be compelled to pay an increased tax.
    • Thomas Tomlin, Baron Tomlin, in the UK House of Lords case, IRC v. Duke of Westminster (1936) 19 TC 490, [1936] AC 1. In the UK in the 1930s, this quote was put on the back of business cards of those marketing tax avoidance schemes, to the consternation of the Inland Revenue; see Philip Baker QC [1].
  • Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes.
    • Judge Learned Hand, Helvering v. Gregory, 69 F.2d 809, 810-11 (2d Cir. 1934).
  • In common with my predecessors I regard tax avoidance schemes of the kind invented and implemented in the present case as no better than attempts to cheat the Revenue.
    • Lord Templeman, IRC v. Fitzwilliam (1993) 67 TC at 756 (UK).


  • The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don't know when it's through if you are a crook or a martyr.

See also