Lord Sacks tackles tax dodgers

Serious business: Sir Martin Sorrell, Lord Sacks and Sir John Ritblat at the Jabe dinner

Serious business: Sir Martin Sorrell, Lord Sacks and Sir John Ritblat at the Jabe dinner

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has criticised people who try to avoid paying tax in the current economic climate.

Addressing the annual dinner of the Jewish Assocation of Business Ethics in London on Tuesday night, he said: "I think individuals have to say 'if I belong in this society, I have to share in the fate of this society'.

"Where everyone else is suffering, it is morally wrong to say 'I am going to take myself out of it'. Even if you can justify it, the fact is we're all in this together."

Lord Sacks was taking part in a discussion with Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP and Sir John Ritblat, president of British Land Company, which was chaired by business journalist Jeff Randall.

When Mr Randall asked whether any of the 320 guests agreed with the Chief Rabbi's views on tax avoidance, only two raised their hands.

Lord Sacks was more flexible on whether a business could move to another country in order to pay less tax.

The key thing was to give to the community in some way - whether through tax, job creation or philanthropy.

"I don't think we should prescribe whether it's done this way or that way. But any business that is seen to be taking wealth out of the country and not giving back to the community will find itself morally unacceptable."

The event, sponsored by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, was an opportunity to raise funds for Jabe projects, including the forthcoming launch of an online version of its popular Money and Morals programme for schools.

But guests were at liberty to indulge in a little networking, too. "There is no restriction in the use of business cards," Jabe chairman Alan Tapnack reassured them.

    Last updated: 3:08pm, October 28 2010