How long are we going to let Tory liars steal our money and give it to their corporate friends?

Consider everything George Osborne and his Conservative cronies said about the Charter for Budget Responsibility in the light of the following article, which was published the day before he said it.

One of Britain’s largest companies, AstraZeneca, paid absolutely no corporation tax here in both 2013 and 2014, despite racking up global profits in those years of £2.9bn.

Astra’s tax maestro is called Ian Brimicombe, and he is more than well-known at the Treasury: he is a trusted adviser. Shortly after George Osborne took over as chancellor in 2010, his team began rewriting the rules on how big businesses are taxed.

To help, the government appointed senior executives from some of Britain’s giant companies to a “liaison committee”, comprising Astra’s Brimicombe, representatives from Tesco, Santander, BP and others.

Although the group was not widely reported, there was no disguising its purpose. In the Treasury’s own blunt words, the businesspeople were providing “strategic oversight of the development of corporate tax policy”.

The new regime for multinationals began in 2013. Within five months, AstraZeneca had set up an unusual and intricate Dutch tax avoidance structure that would enable it to take full advantage of the new loopholes it had so helpfully advised on.

To call this a conflict of interest is to miss the point – it’s far too brazen for that. Osborne’s Treasury blithely invited in some of the country’s biggest businesses and asked them to help design their own tax regimes.

These tax breaks aren’t in aid of struggling small businesses or innovative new tech firms; they are going into the coffers of the biggest companies in Britain, with their platoons of lobbyists and tax advisers and their web of connections into Whitehall.

It’s like trawlermen asking fish to design their nets, or the Highways Agency allowing Jeremy Clarkson to set his own speed limit.

In their original assessment, Treasury officials calculated that the relaxation of the controlled foreign company rules would cost the public around £840m by this tax year. That’s getting on for the equivalent of three brand-new, fully staffed hospitals.

The year 2013 also marked the start of the most severe cuts to social security, including the introduction of the bedroom tax.

That particular cut has inflicted panic and upheaval on some of the poorest households in Britain, yet going by academic research it raises less half the amount given away to multinationals by the new controlled foreign company rules.

This is what “economic competence” now looks like in the UK: an officially driven attempt to turn a developed country into a competitor to the Cayman Islands, with lavish handouts for those who can afford it, and cuts for those who can’t.

Source: Now the Tories are allowing big business to design their own tax loopholes | Aditya Chakrabortty | Comment is free | The Guardian

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