Tag Archives: Anglian

Tax and tax avoidance: Osborne’s attack on small businesses

The Madness of George: Mr Osborne’s latest attack is on the smaller businesses and sole traders who prop up the UK’s economy. Does he understand nothing at all about his job?

It seems George Osborne wants to focus his next attack on the small businesses of the UK – the firms that form the vast majority of the nation’s business base.

Lunacy, you might say. Craziness. You may ask why he would want to do such a thing, and what evidence I have to suggest it.

Well, let’s start with the letters going out to 1,500 people suspected of taking part in a tax avoidance scheme – which is currently legal, although the BBC report suggests its legality will be challenged. These people are suspected of depriving the Treasury of £10 billion per year.

The National Audit Office said HM Revenue and Customs was dealing with a backlog of 41,000 cases of aggressive tax avoidance involving individuals and small companies.

That’s all very interesting. Why not write to the shareholders of the Thames, Anglian and Yorkshire Water companies, whose tax avoidance history received an airing in the press and on this blog very recently? The evidence suggested they were removing a combined total of £1 billion per year to tax havens offshore and, to me, it seems far simpler to write letters to three companies, and investigate them, than to 150 individuals.

Could it be because the water companies were exploiting tax loopholes that had been created especially for them, and other large businesses, by Mr Osborne himself in 2011?

Could it be that shareholders in those large concerns might also be donating money to the Conservative Party? Attacking them would be the political equivalent of self-harming, if that were the case.

So the focus of attack goes down to the smaller business or sole trader.

Were you aware that Mr Osborne is considering changing road tax rules, to introduce a new two-tier system?

It seems he wants to create a class system for the roads, in which second-class citizens will be licensed to use the smaller roads, while first-class citizens will be able to pay for the extra tax disc, entitling them to use the motorways.

I see that as an attack – on the private driver, yes, but also on the small businessperson. Think about it. Small businesses can spend a lot of time on the roads, zipping around between jobs. An extra expense on the balance sheet could be the difference between being a profitable concern and going under.

At a time when the UK is relying on small and start-up businesses to re-ignite the economy, this is nothing short of madness.

But then, when’s the last time anyone ever suggested George Osborne had sense?

Coalition plans are working – some government departments will be “decimated”

I know I used this photo very recently, but it’s the only one I feel really gets across the CHARACTER of our vampiric Chancellor.

Oh look, Gideon George Osborne’s an idiot again. Or a genius, depending on whether you’re a fan of responsible government or of shrinking the State.

He’s going to cut government spending by £48 BILLION in the next government spending round (The Guardian says he could increase taxes by that amount but I think we all know that’s not going to happen. Not to the rich, anyway).

It turns out the economy is weaker now than when he started – no surprises there, that’s what his policies were intended to do – so he’ll have a bigger gap to bridge when he makes his next set of multi-year spending plans. Let’s bear in mind that there will be an election around this time; we can boot this bunch of economically-illiterate lunatics back out to rot in their country estates and get someone in who actually wants to do some good.

Assuming that doesn’t happen, according to The Grauniad, in addition to the deep cuts in government departmental spending for 2010-15, Mr 0 pencilled in £26 billion of additional cuts for the next spending round “to complete” – don’t laugh – “the repair work”. Obviously “repair” was a space-holding word and they were looking for an appropriate one. “Demolition” seems a likely contender to me.

It turns out the UK’s structural deficit – that’s the shortfall in the public finances that will remain when the economy has fully recovered from the recession, as they love to remind us – was 1.1 per cent of GDP higher than forecast in March. So that wipes out the one per cent growth we had in the last quarter, then. Harumph.

This means that the current spending round’s cuts of 2.3 per cent will be dwarfed by the 3.7 per cent further cuts required in the next one – so everything is going to plan, you see.

The paper quotes Ian Mulheirn, director of the Social Market Foundation thinktank, as saying: “The chancellor will have to lay out some eye-watering cuts at the next spending review and will prolong austerity deep into the next Parliament.” Eye-watering to you, sir – MOUTH-watering to him.

For those of us who know we’re going to have to pay for it (some of the poorest with their lives, I’m sure. It’s already happened in this Parliament; if the Conservatives continue into the next, it’ll only get worse) also know that it could be very different.

This government has overseen and facilitated some of the worst tax avoidance fiascos in the history of, well, taxation itself, I expect. Look at the article I posted yesterday about the water companies. Look at Starbucks, Google, and Amazon, that are all having to explain themselves because they are companies owned by Johnny Foreigner. It’s all right for British businesspeople to stash your cash in tax havens abroad, but we can’t let just anyone have it, can we?

Come to that, look at how gas prices are allegedly being manipulated for their own ends by the big power companies, which is the lead on The Guardian‘s website as I type this. That market is worth £300 billion, according to the paper. How much of that does the State get, and how much disappears?

If I hear one more overprivileged bozo telling me it’s what the law allows I shall retch in my – in HIS – hat. The law allows it because the laws are being MADE by an overprivileged bozo – Gideon George Osborne!


Osborne-created tax loophole diddles the UK out of hundreds of millions

A tax avoidance loophole specially created by George Osborne, the UK Chancellor, last year means that water companies have played the system to reduce their tax bills to a trickle.

Some people just don’t know when it’s time to do the right thing.

Look at the three water companies that are paying practically no tax on their huge profits, while yanking up prices every year according to the retail price index and enjoying a monopoly in their areas – according to today’s report in The Observer.

Thames Water avoids tax by offsetting the interest payments on its debts against its tax liability and delaying it by claiming allowances on capital project spending. The company is seeking government support for a £4.1bn project to build a new “super sewer” under the Thames.

Anglian lent £1,609.1m to a subsidiary company in the Cayman Islands tax haven in 2002. This year it was able to pay £478.1m in equity dividends to investors, including its subsidiary in the tax haven.

Yorkshire Water also increased the debt on its books recently, which offsets tax payments.

In other words, all three were able to exploit a new tax loophole, created by George Osborne last year – that’s right, the Chancellor who is supposedly trying to stop tax avoidance has actually been creating more ways for big business to achieve it – to pay as little tax as possible.

In my article last Monday, I highlighted changes to the tax laws, brought in by Gideon, I mean Mr 0, that mean companies in the UK pay nothing at all on money made by their foreign branches and may claim the expense of funding those foreign branches against tax paid in the UK. That is exactly what Anglian and Yorkshire are doing, according to the Observer report.

Without knowing where the Thames debt is based, it’s hard to say for certain whether it falls into this category of tax avoidance.

Thames made an operating profit of £650 million last year, and Anglia’s was £492, while Yorkshire’s was £303 million. With Corporation Tax at 26 per cent (they should all pay the higher rate), this means the Treasury failed to collect nearly £376 million from the three companies.

The amount lost to the Treasury from these three companies alone would pay off three-quarters of what the government hopes to take away from people currently on council tax benefit, when local authorities implement their new council tax relief schemes – the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – in accordance with Eric Pickles’ Localism Act, next April.

Both Thames and Anglian told The Observer their tax was merely being deferred, and they would have to pay it in full at a later date. Yorkshire declined to comment.

My problem with this is that the UK is in deficit difficulties NOW. We need everybody’s tax money NOW. Not later. By exploiting a loophole in the tax system that the Chancellor irresponsibly created, they – AND HE – are extending the problem.

The absence of any significant tax bills means Thames and Anglian were able to pay out dividends totalling £1.5881 billion. I don’t have the figures for Yorkshire. Ask yourself how many of those shareholders have tax avoidance schemes of their own.

Meanwhile, those of us on PAYE have to pay the full amounts of our tax bills – and our utility bills – no matter what harm they do to our household finances. There can be no deferrals for the working-class citizen!

And what help do our bloated water companies give us?

A drop in the ocean.