One of my colleagues passed on this quote regarding tax avoidance from about 80 years ago:

Lord Clyde, President of the Court of Session, ruled: “No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores.

“The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer’s pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue.”

I’m checking its veracity.

Update: I’m grateful to BenSaundersCTA for confirming that this judgment is from Ayrshire Pullman Motor Services & D M Ritchie v The Commissioners of Inland Revenue 14 TC 754. There’s an interesting article about the context here.


  1. Yes, it’s genuine: Ayrshire Pullman Motor Services v CIR (1929) 14 TC 754. However, it is often quoted by judges these days to be followed by ‘but…’. It is still good law, but the way judges get to an understanding of what the taxing statutes actually say has changed significantly.

    The other judge normally quoted is Lord Tomlin in Duke of Westminster v CIR – for a more nuanced analysis of that see on Taxation magazine’s website.

    Mike Truman
    Editor, Taxation magazine