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Minister’s 'ask a nurse' tax test

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Members of the UK200Group of independent chartered accountancy and lawyer firms have commented on Skills and Equalities Minister Nick Boles’ suggestion that businesses ask an NHS nurse about tax planning issues.

Speaking at a pre-election debate about business policies, Mr Boles said there was more to do to tackle corporate tax avoidance. He added: “If you’ve got an idea of something you’re going to do, go to a nurse in your local hospital and explain it to her for three minutes. If … she thinks it’s pretty reasonable … it’s OK. If she gets pretty angry with you it probably isn’t."

Jonathan Russell, partner at UK200Group member ReesRussell

“Nick Boles says ‘ask a nurse’ to establish whether what a business is doing is reasonable for tax purposes and see how the nurse reacts. I would also ask that same nurse how they would react next time a jobbing builder doing some work at their home says ‘If you pay me cash you can save the VAT?’

“Tax avoidance is not, though is rapidly becoming, a moral issue but tax avoidance stems from bad and complex tax laws. If the law allows a methodology to be used which reduces the tax, a loophole, then it cannot be wrong to utilise it – that is tax avoidance; no different to getting tax reductions for pension payments or charitable donations – are they wrong as well?

“But paying cash as a consumer to avoid the VAT is tax evasion and a criminal offence. I am against tax avoidance and believe everyone should pay the ‘correct’ amount of tax but it is not a criminal offence and will not be so until it becomes a criminal offence for politicians and law makers to pass laws full of loopholes.”

David Whiscombe, director of tax at UK200Group member firm BKL

“Some evangelical Christians wear a bracelet bearing the letters WWJD: the idea is that it reminds them to test anything they do against Christian principles (What would Jesus do?). 

“This seems to be a variation on the same theme.  While I can see the attraction of the WWJD thing, I’m not quite sure that borrowing the moral compass of a random nurse has quite the same authority…”

Andrew Jackson, head of tax at UK200Group member firm Fiander Tovell

“It seems to me that this is just a case of replacing the man on the Clapham omnibus with someone a bit more PR-friendly.

“The Clapham omnibus test is already recognised as a good touchstone. The nurse seems to me to rank alongside ‘What would Jesus (/Buddha/Thor/Chuck Norris) do?’, “Would your mother be proud of you?”, and the ‘smell test’ as variations on that theme.  

“As with all those variations, the exact test chosen can say more about the person doing the choosing than it does about the issue. Why do you think that person’s moral compass to be most appropriate?

“Although I have to suspect that I were to stop a nurse in the middle of a shift to ask their views on my business policies, I might get a more vehement response than I’d like, regardless of how they feel about the particular matter in question...”


Established in 1986, UK200Group is the leading mutual professional association in the UK with some 150 offices of quality-assured member accountancy and lawyer firms throughout the UK totalling over 550 partners, 150,000 business clients and global links in over 50 countries. UK200Group provide services and products that are designed to enhance the business performance of its members.  Telephone 01252 401050, email or visit 


UK200Group is an association of separate and independently owned and managed accountancy firms and lawyer firms. UK200Group does not provide client services and it does not accept responsibility or liability for the acts or omissions of its members.  Likewise, the members of UK200Group are separate and independent legal entities, and as such each has no responsibility or liability for the acts or omissions of other members

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