5

I'm referring to UK - Can I buy things for myself through my company? which, while seemingly a legitimate "yes/no" question, on closer look turns out to actually be asking "how can I legally use a company to make tax-free purchases for myself, thus effectively defrauding the government of the nation in which I live of tax revenue"? The asker notes this in the question itself, and the accepted answer is by a user essentially advising them how to achieve this.

I don't believe that such questions or answers should be entertained here. While not explicitly disallowed by the Stack Exchange network's Code of Conduct nor technically illegal, hosting such morally grey content could easily open Money.SE and the entire Stack Exchange network up to a trial in the court of public opinion, the consequences of which are unlikely to be favourable.

2
  • I'm on the fence about this one. While the intent of the OP and some answers is questionable, they are clear that, when in doubt, one should seek and follow advice from a professional accountant. Thus anything that is actually done would be above board according to a licensed professional.
    – Eric
    Jan 22 at 19:09
  • 1
    @Ian Kemp OP here, unfortunately you have misinterpreted my question. "Defraud" implies illegal activity. Paying tax according to the law is in no way illegal. Ask yourself why tax loopholes exist and have not been closed by the gov? Then you will understand why the question that I asked is pertinent. SE is here to answer questions, not provide moral guidance.
    – pho_pho
    Jan 26 at 15:06
13

I tend to agree it should be deleted, but not for the exact reason stated in this meta question. The OP apparently asks a question about whether or not they can buy things for themselves with their company's money, and the clear legal answer to that is "no" - I have now posted an answer to explain this.

The accepted answer, and the OP in an edit to their question, make it clear they are actually talking about ways to dress up expenses that are really personal as business ones. That's illegal, even if you would never get caught.

If the question was genuinely asking about legal but morally questionable activity, then I would be in favour of keeping it for the reasons Ben gives.

I'll see what other users and mods think before deleting it, but I have just removed it from Hot Network Questions.

2
  • 2
    OP here, removing the question from Hot Network Questions, or even going so far as removing the question all together is incredibly irresponsible and aligns with Cancel Culture. Why is your moral opinion superior to anyone else's? And why is morality in question here? Using tax laws effectively is not about "falsely convincing" anyone, it is about maximising retained earnings, and has been practiced for hundreds of years. Gov's allow it for good reason. Morally right or wrong is out of the question.
    – pho_pho
    Jan 26 at 15:10
  • 2
    @pho_pho I have edited my answer, and answered your question, to clarify that I believe the question has veered into discussing actually illegal activity, and why. Jan 26 at 22:15
8

The problem with this line of thinking is: Whose version of morality are you (or the moderators) going to enforce?

Tax laws are just that: laws. If something is "technically legal," then it is, in fact, legal. Taxes are a legal obligation; we wouldn't pay taxes if we weren't required. So if someone is asking how to avoid taxes in a "technically legal" way, how is that immoral? Am I doing something immoral when I contribute to my HSA and take a tax deduction? How about when I contribute to a Roth IRA and never pay tax on any of the investment earnings? Is that immoral?

If you think that the accepted answer is incorrect, then you have several options at your disposal:

  • Downvote the answer
  • Leave a comment explaining the error
  • Write your own correct answer

Users have done all of these things.

I do not think that moderators should be deleting answers that they simply don't agree with, and I certainly do not think that moderators should be deleting questions just because they don't like some of the answers. Our moderators have some very important duties, but using mod powers to judge the correctness of answers is not one of them.

As for my opinion on the answer we are talking about, I think TomTom makes some great points. I don't know anything about UK tax law, but of course, there is grey area, and I don't think TomTom is sugar-coating it; he repeatedly says that you can get in trouble with the government, and recommends consulting an accountant.

7
  • 1
    I don't think what he's saying is even technically legal. He's talking about doing things that are actually illegal if the full truth were known, but difficult to prove - see his final comment ("And one old rule in any legal system is: the truth does not matter, only what is proven.") Jan 23 at 11:28
  • 2
    @GS-ApologisetoMonica He does have a point, even if you don’t agree with it. I say something similar in a personal example in a recent answer of mine. I received a small gift card as a thank you for a favor I did for a friend. I note that the law says that I am supposed to claim this as income on my taxes, but that I probably won’t, nor would most people. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so. I kinda think that a law that would try to tax a small thank you gift from a friend is immoral, not me. Jan 23 at 12:18
  • But it is really all how you think about it. If the friend had given me the gift card at Christmas time, perhaps, and then I had done the favor, would it be taxable? I don’t think anyone would say that. It is a big gray area. Jan 23 at 12:21
  • Your first gift card answer is firmly in "will anyone care even if they find out" territory, and the second one is a genuine grey area. The accepted answer, particularly as clarified in comments, are clearly in the territory of significant law breaking. Jan 23 at 12:24
  • @GS-ApologisetoMonica And perhaps you are right, but I don’t think that mods should be deleting answers solely because they judge them to be incorrect. Just my opinion. I invite you and anyone else to downvote both TomTom’s answer and even mine, if you think there is misinformation in it. Jan 23 at 12:28
  • 2
    The point is not that it's incorrect, but that it's proposing something actually illegal. I think it is actually a correct answer to the question, particularly as amended. Jan 23 at 12:32
  • 1
    @GS-ApologisetoMonica I don’t agree. OP says in his edit that he is going to consult an accountant as TomTom recommended, and they will decide what things to deduct. If the accountant looks at his business and purchases and together they decide what they will claim, how can you, who has not yet seen what they decide, say that they are doing something illegal? Jan 23 at 12:37
5

I tend to look at the more than the core original question in cases where it is close.

  • Does the extra information tend to imply they are willing to cheat?
  • Do their comments on answers imply that they are looking only for the answer that says "yes you may do this" or "this is how to get away with it"?
  • Do their responses to comments on their question double down on their looking for a way to cheat?

On numerous occasions I have changed my opinion of the question or answers from neutral to negative. I have even on occasion voted to close a day or two after the question was asked because the tenor of the situation changed.

1
  • One of the beautiful things about Stack Exchange is that it doesn’t really matter what kind of answer the OP is looking for. An answer that speaks truth and tells the OP what he needs to hear (rather than what he wants to hear) can be posted and will get upvotes. We don’t need to close or delete questions because we think the OP might not want to hear the truth. Instead of voting to close these questions, consider posting a thoughtful answer, explaining why the OP is thinking about the situation in the wrong way. Even if it is not “accepted,” it could still be the highest rated answer. Jan 27 at 12:44
1

I think it's a bit more than just "morally" questionable, it's kinda stretching on the frontier of legality. I think it isn't very legal, but since the law can't cover all and every possible cases, there's always a way to circumvent it into being technically legal.

A very, very sketchy example would be: imagine a rule that forbids you from killing. Then you incinerate someone, you claim that "I did not kill them, I merely burnt them". Technically right, but... yeah, it's stretching the laws.

I honestly don't like that answer that much, but I think Ben Miller adressed it well in their answer on this meta: the answer says that it can get you in trouble, so it was more of a factual answer for the most curious ones, although it won't prevent anyone from applying it.

Ppretty much like how you can ask either realistic or hypothetical questions about laws on Law Stack Exchange (the following message is displayed at all time):

Law Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner. Communications on Law Stack Exchange are not privileged communications and do not create an attorney-client relationship.

Even though it doesn't substitute a lawyer, you can learn something from asking. Which reminds me of that one person who asked how someone can possibly get caught from using that other chemical that can kill anyone with merely a few drop, nearly a dozen months later, which gives you plenty of time to "disappear": maybe they planned to kill someone, maybe they didn't, but we all learnt something from reading it.

1
  • Speaking of Law Stack Exchange, it might be worth asking over there about it, for the most curious ones.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 3 at 19:28

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