Tag Archives: evasion

By-election candidate supports tax avoidance for the rich – but hammered the vulnerable with the bedroom tax

Chris Davies: He supports tax avoidance and evasion, according to his voting record.

If you were reading This Site yesterday (July 30), you’ll be aware that a friend on Facebook has been looking at the Parliamentary voting record of Chris Davies, the former MP and current Conservative candidate in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election – and it makes grim reading.

The same friend has now finished researching Mr Davies’s record on taxation and the results speak for themselves. Amongst other decisions…

• Davies voted against a series of proposals intended to reduce tax avoidance and evasion.
• Davies voted against an investigation into the banking industry’s failure to prevent tax evasion.
• Davies voted against requiring multinational enterprises to publish a country by country tax strategy including information on their attitude to tax planning (this could have established evidence to show how companies avoid paying tax).
• Davies voted against giving the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority duties to combat abusive tax avoidance arrangements.
• Davies voted not to support the publishing full details of the Government’s tax settlement with Google and for an international agreement to implement country-by-country reporting of company accounts.

So you can see that Mr Davies is a big fan of tax avoidance and evasion by corporations and the very rich. Conversely:

• Davies voted to ensure that victims of domestic abuse would have to pay extra charges – the bedroom tax – if they were provided with a secure tenancy that incorporates a spare room.

So he’s against tax fairness; he would let corporations and the rich get away without paying a huge amount of tax that would hugely contribute to public services, but he’s happy to hammer the vulnerable with an unfair and random tax that affects people according to the accommodation that is allocated to them (which in turn is based on what is available).

I hope the people of Brecon and Radnorshire pay attention to this abysmal record – while also remembering that Mr Davies is himself a convict, having been found guilty of faking expenses claims earlier this year.

Mr Davies should never have been voted into Westminster. It is time to kick him back into the political wilderness.

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POLL: Are John McDonnell’s plans to revolutionise the economy feasible?

The shadow chancellor is planning to revolutionise the financial sector.

Take a look at the video in John McDonnell’s tweet, below:

Mr McDonnell rightly states that the finance sector should be the servant of the nation’s economy, not its master – that its responsibility is to generate the wealth we need to pay for the advances we want – and I hope nobody reading this would disagree.

He goes on to make several suggestions about how to make this happen – a financial transactions (“Robin Hood”) tax and tackling tax evasion are top of the list.

But will his ideas work? Let’s have a poll.

I would appreciate your detailed opinions as well – please send them in as comments.

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No prosecutions: Were Tory tax evasion laws to protect their friends rather than prosecute OUR enemies?

Draw your own conclusions from this report by Left Foot Forward:

Not a single person has been jailed or even prosecuted for tax evasion since the Tories brought in what they claimed were “tough” new measures against tax dodgers, it was shown today.

Two new laws criminalising corporate tax evasion came into force last September, but not a single person has faced prosecution, it’s been revealed, despite tax dodging amounting to at least £7bn last year alone.

Responding to a written question, Mel Stride, Secretary to the Treasury admitted:

“To date no prosecutions have been either brought to court or completed under the ‘failure to prevent the facilitation of UK and foreign tax evasion’ clause of the Criminal Finances Act 2017.”

And it was revealed in February that the Tories’ tax avoidance measures since 2010 are raising billions less than the amounts first promised.

Source: Revealed: not a single person has been prosecuted under the Tories’ offshore tax evasion laws | Left Foot Forward


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Welfare is perfectly sustainable, Gideon – it’s the TAX GAP that’s the problem!

George Osborne's most famous performance in Prime Minister's Questions, from November 2014. What was he on?

George Osborne’s most famous performance in Prime Minister’s Questions, from November 2014. What was he on?

George Gideon Osborne. Was there ever a more foolish fellow running the Exchequer?

Probably not. Did you hear him in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, trying to tell us that the UK’s social security bill makes up seven per cent of welfare in the whole world, and that this is “unsustainable”? What a berk.

The first question this raises is, can he prove his “seven per cent” claim?

No – he’s wrong. The claim is based on a comment by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about EU social security being 50 per cent of that in the world, making the UK’s share 7.4 per cent of the total. Unfortunately for Thick George, she was using World Bank data that only included 96 countries and excluded large economies like Canada and Mexico, where social security makes up 18 per cent and 17 per cent of each country’s GDP.

The Guardian reckons that, if all countries were taken into account, this would not seriously affect the UK’s share of the total, suggesting that it accounts for the rounding-down to seven per cent from 7.4 – but there’s no proof either way. The article also quibbles about definitions of social security spending.

What this really shows is not that the UK spends too much, but that other countries spend too little.Mr

Nearly half of the world’s population – three billion people – must try to scrape a living on around $2.50US per day – or less. Of those, 1.3 billion are in extreme poverty, having to survive on less than $1.25 per day. That’s around 80p.

The countries in which they live – mostly developing countries – don’t have social security at all; that is the scandal.

If they did, then Gideon could not quote his “seven per cent” figure – it would be much lower.

What’s stopping these developing countries? Well, the organisation most directly responsible is probably the International Monetary Fund, whose ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ have put these countries into a continual cycle of debt; they can’t help their populations without breaching the IMF’s rules. This is the same IMF that wants the UK to run a debt economy, by the way.

So much for Osborne’s claim that social security spending in the UK is too large a proportion of the world’s spend. What about his “unsustainable” comment?

He said: “We can either carry on on a completely unsustainable path or we can continue to reform welfare so that work pays and we give a fair deal to those on welfare and indeed a fair deal to the people, the taxpayers of this country, who pay for it.”

Ignoring for the moment the fact that those on social security are in fact taxpayers themselves, let us consider the fact that the UK government does not collect as much tax as it could, and in fact offers extremely lucrative tax avoidance opportunities to the obscenely wealthy.

Did you know that you could fit the owners of half the world’s wealth into a double-decker bus, with space to spare? Less than 80 people own more money than the other seven billion, and you can bet that the majority of those with UK citizenship aren’t paying their full whack of tax!

A report by Tax Research UK has indicated that the amount of tax being avoided is around £122 billion every year. Compare that with the UK’s current budget deficit of £107 billion per year and you will see that – in a perfect world in which it was all collected – we would be running surpluses of at least £15 billion per year.

The Conservative government, of which Osborne is Chancellor, tells us the most effective way of tackling the deficit is by cutting the public services on which many people rely. They say it is the only option without increasing taxes.

But, with more than £100 billion in taxes going uncollected, why is the government slashing funding to the HMRC investigative branch?

Over on Tax Research UK itself, Richard Murphy has taken David Gauke, the financial secretary to the Treasury, to task over his fudged claims about the tax gap.

Gauke said: “The tax gap as a percentage has been lower in every year under us than it was in any year under the Labour Government”.

Mr Murphy replied: “Percentages are the evasive politician’s favourite tool, so I think that claim can be dismissed. What remains baffling is David Gauke’s apparent inability to see just how wrong his data might be. The government claims that the tax gap is £34 billion. And then it claims that HMRC recover £26 billion a year. Or to put it another way, £60 billion of tax abuse is attempted and 40 per cent is recovered.

“Is there anyone who thinks that remotely likely?”

He goes on to completely trash Gauke’s – and the Conservative Government’s – claims, and it is strongly recommended that you read the article for the details.

Mr Murphy says HMRC’s tax gap estimates should be subject to independent economic audit to check their credibility. He says HMRC’s claim of tax recovered should be subject to independent scrutiny to ensure that it is credible. He says a review of HMRC is overdue, with a panel of independent experts including from unions and civil society being included in the task. And he says it is time we had an Office for Tax Responsibility, reporting to the Public Accounts Committee, to ensure that this most critical department of government is held to account.

He states: “A recovery of £26 billion out of more than £100 billion I could possibly accept – except to say it could be so much better. But that rate of recovery out of anything less is absurd right now – as is HMRC’s tax gap estimate.”

So, under analysis, Gideon the Towel Folder’s claims are no more than silly attempts to confuse us.

If he bothered to collect all the taxes owed him, he would be running a budget surplus tomorrow.

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Osborne’s last budget says more in its omissions than in its announcements

150319budget8

Did we just have the worst-ever Budget from Britain’s weakest-ever Chancellor? All the indications suggest it.

George Osborne stole his best ideas from the Labour Party and claimed he was trimming his planned austerity back – raising mockery from those who said he was running like a rabbit from Labour’s “back to the 1930s” attack.

“George Osborne blinked,” said Paul Mason on Channel 4 News. “He looked at the scale of austerity he promised in December and realised it wasn’t going to be that popular.”

Did he, though? An alternative view might be that he has been trying to trick us – setting out a plan that suggests a horrific level of cuts at first, then claiming to relent and suggesting that he will inflict less damage and spend lots at the very end of the next Parliament.

So his promise is hideous suffering for four more years, with the vague possibility of greater spending at the end of it – if all has gone well.

Based on his current record, that’s a promise George Osborne can’t keep. Did he balance the books in this Parliament? No. Did he cut the deficit without cutting frontline services? No. Did he balance austerity fairly between the poor and the rich? No – the poor have taken a hugely disproportionate amount of the pain while the richest in the UK are now twice as rich as they were in 2009; for them, we have been in an economic boom.

What a shame those "naughty Trotskyites" (thank you, Mike Collins) at the Torygraph had to burst Osborne's balloon by pointing out the huge growth of the national debt on his watch.

What a shame those “naughty Trotskyites” (thank you, Mike Collins) at the Torygraph had to burst Osborne’s balloon by pointing out the huge growth of the national debt on his watch – more than £517 billion so far, which is more than every Labour government in history.

Labour’s bank levy and the changes to pensions that would have funded Labour’s tuition fees cut were stolen by Osborne. This is why Labour has been keeping future policies quiet – to prevent such things from happening. In making these moves, Osborne has helped Labour because critics of Labour’s failure to announce policies in advance will now have to shut up.

He said living standards would be back where they were in 2010 by the end of the current financial year – but using a scale (Real Household Disposable Incomes) that is disputed, and in any case is only a projection. According to the Mean Income scale, we’re nowhere near.

And Osborne’s claim assumes that household incomes will rise by no less than 3.1 per cent this year. Unlikely!

And remember – as Mr Mason put it: “Prices are falling because of oil prices and potential deflation; it’s not because a load of bricklayers and plumbers and taxi drivers are putting down their prices – and wages up.”

He repeated the claim that he has halved the deficit – but this is as a proportion of GDP. What if we have another economic shock (as seems likely) and GDP drops? Suddenly that figure won’t look as good. In money terms, the deficit has come down by around one-third to something like £90 billion a year. This means Osborne hasn’t even achieved what the previous Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling, said was possible in 2010 – and Labour would not have caused anything like the misery George Osborne’s party and the Liberal Democrats created for people on housing benefit, the sick, the disabled, and low-paid workers.

He didn’t mention the huge budget cuts to come over the next five years (if we get lumbered with more Tory rule) – worse than “anything over the past five years”

150319budget7

As the BBC’s Robert Peston tweeted: “If Tories win, OBR says ‘sharp acceleration’ in pace of cuts to day-to-day spending on public services & admin 2016-17 & 2017-18.” In those two years – under Tory rule – we would get double the amount of austerity cuts that we’ve had at any point in the last four. We don’t even know where those cuts will happen.

150319budget4

It is important to note that we won’t get cuts on anything like this scale under a Labour government, according to shadow chancellor Ed Balls.

In the meantime, Osborne has managed to pull a few rabbits out of his hat:

  • The tax allowance has been raised again, lifting more low-earners out of paying Income Tax. But those working part-time on low wages, including most apprentices and people who are self-employed, are already unlikely to pay income tax and will miss out entirely on the benefits of this tax change.
  • Meanwhile the threshold at which people will pay tax at the ‘high’ 40 per cent rate will also rise, meaning people earning up to £42,384 will get a massive tax break.
  • Beer duty is being cut again.
  • There will be a new savings tax break, meaning more than 90 per cent of savers won’t pay tax on this money.
  • And Osborne is launching a new ‘help to buy’ ISA for people trying to get on the property ladder.

All of these remove income from the Treasury, meaning the austerity measures Osborne plans to introduce will be more severe than you may be expecting. Note that the high-earners benefiting from the rise in the tax threshold will profit again – they can’t be hurt by cuts to benefits they don’t receive.

And what about tax dodging? Osborne omitted his failure to tackle this issue from his Budget speech. Perhaps this is because the wounds inflicted by the HSBC scandal are still too raw; perhaps it is because everybody knows Osborne and the Coalition have re-written tax law to make avoidance much easier for the filthy rich and the corporates. 38 Degrees caught the mood in a nutshell:

150319budget5

Regarding the ‘help to buy’ ISA, it’s notable that Osborne didn’t mention the lack of new homes built since 2010.

150319budget2Osborne did not mention the Coalition government’s disgraceful treatment of the National Health Service at all. There will be no new money for the service. His omission prompted the following – scathing – response:

150319budget1

However, as Mark Ferguson of LabourList pointed out on Twitter: “Cameron again takes credit for more doctors. Now it takes seven years to train a doctor. So those are Labour’s doctors.”

Oh, and there was a sideswipe at the SNP. North Sea oil revenues have taken a vertiginous tumble as a result of the cut in oil prices, meaning investment has also declined markedly. Osborne has cut the supplementary charge and introduced investment incentives to prop up this income stream, in a move that Tom Bradby describes as “trying to shoot SNP foxes”.

On employment, Osborne quoted his claim that there are 1.9 million new jobs and the jobless rate is at 5.3 per cent. He omitted the figures on how many are zero-hours (1.8 million in a snapshot taken last August) or off the dole due to sanctions. The number of people unemployed and not claiming JSA is at its highest level ever, as this graph shows:

[Thanks to Bernadette Meaden for this information.]

[Thanks to @InclusionCESI for this information.]

So, as one commentator put it, the Tories go into the 2015 general election with debt, in-work poverty and net migration higher – and the NHS in crisis compared to 2010.

Labour’s Michael Dugher followed up on this with: “Are the Tories really going to run on ‘You’ve never had it so good’?”

He has offered a few small freebies in a lame bid to influence the vote, hoping all the while that you won’t ask questions about the important economic issues he hasn’t bothered to mention.

Not only are we at the end of a zombie Parliament, but its own chancellor has crippled it in its final lurch to the election.

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Osborne’s ‘no gimmicks’ budget: How much can we trust?

What hope would the UK have if THIS man continues as Chancellor of the Exchequer after the general election?

What hope would the UK have if THIS man continues as Chancellor of the Exchequer after the general election?

George Osborne will deliver his final budget of the current Parliament on Wednesday and – if it proves to be the last he ever gives – it won’t be a moment too soon.

Ever since his ’emergency’ budget of 2010, which ended the economic growth created by Labour’s Alistair Darling and ushered in three years of economic flatlining, we have had to endure an unending stream of nonsense from this chancer-among-chancellors, this most mini-among-ministers, this least-treasured Treasurer.

Today we heard that he is again attempting to bribe pensioners into voting Conservative, with a plan that encourages them to take out their defined contribution pension annuities for a lump sum – which, it seems likely, will then be used up in short order, leaving the pensioner to fall on the mercy of the state.

It seems to be more short-termism – getting senior citizens to spend, in order to create a minor boost to economic activity now, while storing up problems for the future.

Osborne says no, and told the BBC that it was “patronising” to suggest people might blow the money on an expensive sports car, then come back for more when they ran out of cash.

This is from the Chancellor who, prior to the financial crash, told Gordon Brown repeatedly that bankers could be trusted to run their businesses unregulated; and who, once in government, based his entire economic strategy on a theory that has since been comprehensively trashed.

The Guardian has listed a few more claims that Osborne might make in his Budget speech, along with the counter-arguments. We shan’t bother with the arguments in support of him here – let’s skip to the good parts. Here are the claims – and their debunkings:

The Government’s plan is working – Deficit reduction has been much slower than Osborne forecast five years ago. In his first budget, in June 2010, the chancellor predicted that he would need to borrow £37bn in 2014-5 and that tax receipts would cover day-to-day government spending. The actual figure will be almost three times that, and, when adjusted for the state of the economy, the 2015 budget deficit is expected to be higher than any other EU country barring Croatia, according to Investec.

Britain has the fastest-growing economy in the G7 – Osborne’s account of his stewardship is partial and misleading. It ignores the first two years, in each of which austerity measures knocked one percentage point off growth, resulting in a flatlining economy. Britain’s recovery from the 2008-09 slump has been the weakest of any in the past 100 years, slower even than the bounce back from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Real wages have at last started to rise as a result of falling inflation, but incomes per head are on average the same now as they were in 2006, before the financial crisis. Business investment has fallen for the past two quarters, and the current account deficit is higher than ever, at 6% of GDP.

We are helping hard- working people by raising tax allowances – Raising the personal allowance is not a well-targeted way of helping the low paid because it helps earners further up the income scale as well. Britain’s low-pay culture means millions of workers don’t earn anything like £10,600 a year. As a result, Osborne is thought to be toying with the idea of raising the threshold for employee national insurance contributions, which is effectively another form of income tax but kicks in at a lower level.

We will ease back on austerity while sticking to our deficit-cutting target – Even after a trim, Osborne’s cuts programme will still look drastic. Labour will argue that he is taking too much of a risk with economic growth and jeopardising essential public services.

We will launch a new crackdown on tax evasion – This is too little, too late, and many of the perks that help the super-rich avoid tax – including non-domiciled tax status – remain in place. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are under fire for appointing former HSBC chairman Stephen Green as a trade minister, apparently without checking his possible involvement.

Feel free to copy out the above and check it against Osborne’s speech on Wednesday.

One thing is certain – it will contain nothing that should persuade you to vote Conservative in May.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer says tax is ‘not my job’

Doesn't he look shifty?

Doesn’t he look shifty?

Slippery as an eel, the submarine Chancellor has surfaced from whatever hiding-place he has been using for the last week or so, insisted that the pursuit of people who evaded tax on advice from the HSBC Bank is nothing to do with him, and re-submerged before anybody could point out that this isn’t entirely true.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne doesn’t have a hand in individual prosecutions – but he does set the conditions under which such investigations are undertaken.

Alex Little is therefore correct in pointing out that Osborne is notably not saying that HMRC will have all the resources it needs to carry out a full and exhaustive investigation into the HSBC scandal, and that he needs to appoint financial regulators who actually want to stamp out abuses, rather than those who live in sublime ignorance (such as the gentleman mentioned in Mr Little’s article).

None of the government’s actions have satisfied Labour. Chris Leslie, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “George Osborne has finally emerged, but he still hasn’t answered any of the key questions over the HSBC scandal. He cannot continue to duck responsibility for HMRC’s failure to act or the decision to make Lord Green a Conservative Minister.

“Why has there only been one prosecution out of 1,100 names? Why did George Osborne and David Cameron appoint Lord Green as a Minister months after the government received these files? Did they discuss tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green, or did they turn a blind eye?

“And why did the Treasury sign a deal with the Swiss authorities in 2012 which prevents the UK from actively obtaining similar information in the future?”

According to The Guardian, a YouGov survey for the Times Red Box found 62% of people want the chancellor to answer these questions.

The longer he leaves it, the less electable his Conservative Party becomes…

… and the more like a gang of crooks covering their friends’ backs.

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A message for rich tax-avoiders from The Last Leg

After Wossy said his piece about tax dodgers, Alex Brooker asked, "Are we not going to talk about that jacket?"

After Wossy said his piece about tax dodgers, Alex Brooker asked, “Are we not going to talk about that jacket?”

This is preaching to the converted (obviously) because Vox Political readers all pay their taxes, even those few of you who are actually rich, as currently defined in our society. Right?

It is therefore with a sense of sharing that VP is posting the “Rich people – pay your tax!” rant by Adam Hills (with Alex Brooker, Josh Widdicombe and Jonathan Ross) from last night’s Last Leg.

Please – if you know a rich person and suspect they are avoiding paying their full whack of tax – share this article with them. Ask if they or their family use any of the tax-supported services mentioned in the piece.

Ask them if they want to be followed around by the phrase “Do your bit – don’t be a d*ck!” for the rest of their natural lives.

Here’s the clip:

Sadly it seems the team at The Last Leg has not uploaded the equally excellent comments by David Mitchell (he said that legal loopholes allowing tax avoidance meant the government was “taxing conscience” – the more of a conscience you have, the more you pay – and that isn’t right: “We’re discouraging people from having a conscience by taxing it, & that is f***ing bonkers!”) but it is to be hoped that someone else has recorded them and will share them.

The full episode is (of course) well worth watching and may be seen here.

The message is clear for tax dodgers of any kind: We won’t pay for you any more.

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It’s time to stand up for the whistleblowers

Hervé Falciani, the HSBC whistleblower - currently on the run from the Swiss authorities.

Hervé Falciani, the HSBC whistleblower – currently on the run from the Swiss authorities.

We owe a great debt to the whistleblowers – people who alert us to the misdeeds of the major corporations and public organisations whose decisions affect our everday lives.

Acting entirely altruistically – with no thought for personal gain – these people warn us about the cheats who squat at the top of the economic food chain, doing everything they can to screw the system.

The whistleblowers deserve congratulation and promotion, while the cheats should be removed from their positions, prosecuted, and ordered to pay substantial sums of money as penalty for their actions.

And what do we do? The exact opposite. We prosecute the whistleblowers and elevate the cheats.

Look at Hervé Falciani, the former HSBC systems engineer who revealed that the bank was helping clients avoid paying tax. According to Tax Research UK, he has been on the run from Swiss authorities because he broke Swiss bank secrecy laws to reveal the information, and is living under protection.

Antoine Deltour, who blew the whistle PricewaterhouseCoopers’ lucrative tax avoidance sideline, is now being prosecuted in Luxembourg at the behest of that firm.

Meanwhile, Stephen Green, who chaired HSBC at the time of its offences, was ennobled and made a Conservative minister, while PwC continues to advice the Tory government on its policies to tackle – yes – tax avoidance.

It’s a backwards culture that can only benefit the criminals, and it’s time for legislation to reverse the situation.

Is any political party brave enough to do the honourable thing?

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Labour soars ahead with plan to tackle tax avoidance

Labour's proposals follow the revelations of tax avoidance on a massive scale at HSBC Bank while it was run by Stephen Green - who later became a Conservative lord and minister.

Labour’s proposals follow the revelations of tax avoidance on a massive scale at HSBC Bank while it was run by Stephen Green – who later became a Conservative lord and minister [Image: Daily Mirror].

In a clear response to the HSBC tax avoidance revelations, Labour is setting out its plans to tackle the issue if elected into office after May’s general election.

With campaigners and non-government organisations calling for a “Tax Dodging Bill”, Labour has announced that its first Finance Bill will act to tackle tax avoidance – and was due to set out the measures in an Opposition Day Debate today (Wednesday, February 11).

Labour’s motion notes that just one out of 1,100 people who have avoided or evaded tax have been prosecuted following the revelations of malpractice at HSBC bank, which were first given to the government in May 2010, after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government had taken office.

It also calls upon Lord Green and David Cameron to make a full statement about his role at HSBC and his appointment as a minister in 2011.

The proposed Finance Bill includes plans to:

· Introduce penalties for those who are caught by the General Anti-Abuse Rule

· Close loopholes used by hedge funds to avoid stamp duty

· Close loopholes like the Eurobonds loophole which allow some large companies to move profits out of the UK and avoid Corporation Tax

· Stop umbrella companies exploiting tax reliefs

· Scrap the “Shares for Rights” scheme, which the OBR has warned could enable avoidance and cost £1bn and is administered by HMRC, and so ensure HMRC can better focus on tackling tax avoidance

· Tackle disguised self-employment by introducing strict deeming criteria

· Tackle the use of dormant companies to avoid tax by requiring them to report more frequently

Labour’s measures to tackle tax avoidance will also include:

· Ensuring stronger independent scrutiny of the tax system, including reliefs, and the government’s efforts to tackle tax avoidance

· Forcing the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to produce publicly available registries of beneficial ownership

· Making country-by-country reporting information publicly available

· Ensuring developing countries are properly engaged in the drawing up of global tax rules

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “David Cameron and George Osborne have totally failed to tackle tax avoidance in the last five years. They have failed to close the loopholes we have highlighted, and the amount of uncollected tax has risen under this government.

“I am determined that the next Labour Government will act where the Tories have failed. We will close loopholes that cost the exchequer billions of pounds a year, increase transparency and toughen up penalties – and we will act in our first Finance Bill.”

Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary, said: “The Tories and Lib Dems should back our motion to show that they are serious about tackling tax avoidance and evasion. We have a clear plan for our first Finance Bill after the election – they need to back that or explain why they don’t.”

This is a terrific move by the Labour Party. It seems clear that Labour was planning to tackle tax avoidance in any case – and should gain recognition for that alone, after the Coalition Government spent the last five years blowing hot air at us and doing nothing.

But it’s not perfect. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, wrote yesterday evening: “There is no commitment to extra funding at HMRC. Nothing will happen without that.

“There is no direct reference to the tax gap and making explicit that these issues are meant to close it. Whilst HMRC works with the current deficient version of the tax gap this problem cannot, again, be resolved.

“I want a general anti-avoidance principle, not a revised General Anti-Abuse Rule, but penalties sure as heck help.

“There is no mention of the extra resources needed to make sure Companies House works properly, which is as important as the changes in dormant company reporting.

“There is no mention of BEPS implementation or action on things like permanent establishment and controlled foreign companies.

“And there’s no Office for Tax Responsibility as yet (although the hint of one has, I note appeared, so I am hopeful).”

All these criticisms are valid and it is to be hoped that Labour will adapt its bill to accommodate them. Even if this does not happen, Mr Murphy himself adds: “Let me stop complaining for a moment because I will probably never be completely satisfied.

“This is a package that indicates commitment to listen and commitment to change. It is a package that looks across the board at the issues of concern. And it addresses a fair range of items into debate. I welcome that, of course. The devil is always in the detail but there is room for manoeuvre in here and many statements are moves in the right direction when those are sorely needed.

“That is what is needed for now, and I’ll take it at that level.”

Do any of the other parties have anything at all to say?

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