Guilt by lottery: Criminal failure to prevent facilitation of tax evasion under the Criminal Finances Act 2017

AuthorHarry Stratton
Published date01 February 2022
Date01 February 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Guilt by lottery: Criminal
failure to prevent facilitation
of tax evasion under the
Criminal Finances Act 2017
Harry Stratton
The corporate criminal offences of failure to prevent facilitation of tax evasion punish the
unlucky, unpopular, and large more than genuine tax evaders or facilitators. This article argues
the offences’ broad scope and the unpredictability of the ‘reasonable prevention procedures’
defence means that rather than operating as a deterrent, the provisions effectively assign guilt
by lottery, impose fines that become just another cost of doing business, and punish British
companies for doing business in the developing world where their investment is most needed.
White collar crime, tax evasion, criminal facilitation, corporate liability
One of the many baffling features of Western politics is the fetishisation of small, as opposed to big,
business. To say small business is the backbone of the economy is motherhood and apple pie; but anyone
who says the same about big business is treated as a shill, an elitist or both.
These starkly different
attitudes do not make much sense. Any cut-off between small and large businesses is arbitrary, and the
Corresponding author:
Harry Stratton
1. Opinion polling in the USA gives ‘big business’ an approval rating of 21 per cent, and ‘small business’ an approval rating of 70
per cent: Frank Newport, ‘Business Gets Bigger Even as Americans Prefer Small’ Gallup News (online, 22 August 2017)
<> (accessed
10 June 2021). For context, this means that small business has a higher approval rating than was ever received by Barack
Obama, while big business is less popular than Richard Nixon during Watergate: University of California Santa Barbara, The
American Presidency Project: Presidential Job Approval (2021) <
tial-job-approval> (accessed 10 June 2021). Equivalent polling figures for big business are not available in the UK, but asking
polling participants about small businesses in particular resulted in a jump in net approval rating for business from þ14 to þ39
per cent: Nick King, Think Small: A Blueprint for Supporting UK Small Business (Centre for Policy Studies, London 2019) 50. .
The Journal of Criminal Law
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00220183211024737
2022, Vol. 86(1) 29–36

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