Some of us should be tested regularly because our jobs involve regular contact with large numbers of people.
Consider the doctors and nurses who have saved so many lives already, for example.
Do you think they should be penalised, simply because the nature of their work – saving lives – requires them to take these tests?
It won’t be a step too far because British people are notorious wimps when such impositions are made on their working pay and conditions.
But if you are affected, you should be downing tools and demanding that this decision be refused, and if you aren’t, you should be downing tools in solidarity. This is an attack on all of us.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
How sympathetic of our tax guardians! And if I get caught evading my tax responsibilities, will I receive the same treatment?
Then this is unfair and must end.
It also seems contradictory. Look:
A senior HMRC official admitted that the UK tax authority panders to the rich and powerful when chasing them for tax evasion so they can avoid “reputational damage“.
If you ever had any doubt that in Britain there really is “one rule for them, and another for the rest of us“, this utterly astonishing admission by the UK’s tax authority proves it.
Richard Las, a deputy director of HMRC, said that criminal prosecutions are not the “default option” for cases of tax evasion, money laundering or fraud. He went on to say:
“When deciding whether to deploy our resources, we try to understand what motivates different types of offenders. For example some tax offenders are very wealthy, prominent members of the community. We know that these types of people do not want the reputational damage of custodial sentences, and we can use that to our advantage.”
I could understand this strategy if it resulted in a larger repayment to the Treasury, but the evidence indicates that it does not.
Can HMRC point to anyone who has paid more back to the state as a result of the organisation using the threat of reputational damage “to our advantage”? No – because that would make the whole exercise pointless.
And consider this: Is HMRC admitting it blackmails the rich?
The more one thinks about the HMRC statement, the less credible it seems.
This government department is apparently admitting blackmailing rich people with the threat of reputational damage if they don’t pay up – but we have no evidence to show that they have paid everything they owe.
All you have to do is look at the list of beneficiaries from this proposed law change. None of them are short of a few pennies.
And how many are looking forward to cashing in on Brexit?
Brexit-backing MPs as well as counterparts from the remain campaign have backed a controversial measure to extend a tax break to referendum campaign donors, after several billionaire donors received large demands from HMRC.
The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd, criticised the proposed amendment to the finance bill from prominent leave campaigners Charlie Elphicke, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith, but which has also been backed by Labour MPs and remain supporters Alison McGovern and Caroline Flint.
It would extend a tax exemption for political parties to referendum campaigns – backdating it to cover the EU referendum.
Last month it was revealed that several prominent leave campaigners who donated large sums to the Brexit campaigns during the 2016 referendum received substantial tax demands from HMRC.
HMRC said it had applied the law equally across all donors, but senior UK cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove expressed concerns about the demands.
Isn’t it interesting – some would say fortunate for the Conservatives and their tax avoiding friends – that HM Revenue and Customs don’t seem to have enough staff and resources to investigate the Paradise Papers revelations properly?
The Tories have been cutting Civil Service number wholesale since they came into office in 2010. As the graph (above) shows, the number of staff in HMRC was cut by one-third between 2005 and 2014. It should be admitted that New Labour was in office for the first five years of this period.
Current staffing at HMRC is 60,579, according to UK government figures.
Those staff members are implementing Brexit changes and 15 major programmes already – and must now attempt to add investigating the facts in the Paradise Papers to their duties.
Is it too much?
If the workload is too great, HMRC bosses must face the possibilities that mistakes will be made – unless they decide to concentrate on some projects and exclude others, or take on more staff.
This Writer would suggest that a Tory government is unlikely to take on any more staff!
And no minister would want to admit having pushed ahead with projects, knowing that they were likely to be flawed.
That leaves us with the possibility that some projects will be dropped.
Will the Tories want to drop programmes it has initiated? This seems unlikely.
But shelving an investigation that involves 13.4 million files? Into tax avoidance?
Let us be honest: Tories resent the national assumption that the rich must pay taxes along with everyone else – and must put a higher proportion of their earnings towards those taxes. They assume the poor are more likely to use publicly-funded services, and should therefore pay for them; if those services prove too expensive, then the poor should do without them.
It is an assumption that avoids inconvenient truths, like the fact that we all use some publicly-provided services – rich and poor alike. Our network of public roads is an example that springs to mind.
So it seems likely – to me – that the Tories will find it very easy to delay – perhaps forever – any investigation into tax avoidance, especially one that could implicate members of the Conservative Party, donors to the Conservative Party, or others whose exposure would prove an embarrassment to the Conservative government.
Time will tell if I am proved correct.
HM Revenue and Customs is struggling to cope with a growing workload, including investigating revelations contained within the Paradise Papers, according to parliament’s spending watchdog.
The public accounts committee has warned that it is “far from confident” that the tax authority has sufficient resources to scrutinise claims published in the Guardian last year arising from a leak of 13.4m files.
In a report released on Thursday, MPs concluded that the Paradise Papers leak had highlighted the “potentially dubious practices of many high-profile individuals and corporations” that use offshore tax havens.
The committee said the tax authority was having to make tough decisions about the allocation of its own resources, while implementing Brexit changes and 15 major programmes across government.
The tax authority has until April to outline how it plans to cope with the growing pressures on HMRC.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, said that HMRC’s “high-wire act” is facing “potentially catastrophic consequences” for taking on too many tasks at the same time.”
She added: “HMRC accepts something has to give and it now faces difficult decisions on how best to use its limited resources – decisions that must give full consideration to the needs of all taxpayers.”
A specialist team at HM Revenue & Customs is examining the tax affairs of 6,500 super-rich individuals [Image: Alamy].
… And the story doesn’t say whether the prosecution was successful.
This revelation will certainly re-kindle claims that HMRC is concentrating far too much of its effort on tax avoidance among working- and middle-class people when it should be putting resources elsewhere.
But the simple fact is that it is easier to detect tax avoidance among the less wealthy classes – because they don’t enjoy as many – legal – opportunities for avoidance.
This is a story about corruption in Parliament, where super-rich MPs simply won’t simplify tax in a way that might disadvantage themselves. Or so it seems to This Writer.
Still, it is welcome to see that 40 of the people named in the Panama Papers are now under investigation.
Is it forlorn to hope that one of them is David Cameron?
Tax inspectors targeting Britain’s wealthiest people have identified potential evasion and avoidance worth nearly £2bn, but have pursued only one successful criminal prosecution, a National Audit Office report reveals.
It says the tax affairs of 6,500 super-rich individuals – each worth more than £20m – are being examined by a specialist HM Revenue and Customs unit. The unit is investigating outstanding receipts worth £1.9bn, a majority of which involve aggressive avoidance schemes.
However, just two individuals have been criminally investigated over the past five years, leading to a single prosecution, while another 70 were pursued through the civil courts.
In an indication of the scale of the task faced by the unit, the report discloses that each of the 6,500 super-rich taxpayers has had on average four serious tax issues looked at by the unit. Around 4,000 inquiries have been open for more than three years, it adds.
The report sheds a light on the scale of potential tax avoidance involving the super-rich and will prompt further claims that Britain’s wealthiest people are not being pursued with the same vigour as benefits claimants or small businesses.
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 Guardianreckons 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.
Number of people employed on a “zero-hours contract” in their main job was 697,000 for October to December 2014, representing 2.3% of all people in employment. In the same period in 2013, this was 1.9% of all people in employment (586,000).
The number of people saying they are employed on “zero-hours contracts” depends on whether or not they recognise this term. It is not possible to say how much of the increase between 2013 and 2014 is due to greater recognition rather than new contracts.
Number of contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours where work was carried out was 1.8 million for the fortnight beginning 11 August 2014. The previously published estimate was 1.4 million for the fortnight beginning 20 January 2014.
The two estimates of contracts should not be directly compared. They cover different times of year so changes in the numbers may reflect seasonal factors.
On average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week.
Around a third of people on “zero-hours contracts” want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, compared with 10% of other people in employment.
People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time. They are also more likely to be aged under 25 or 65 and over.
Over half of businesses in Accommodation and Food Services and a quarter of businesses in Education made some use of no guaranteed hours contracts in August 2014.
This is at a time when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said the UK has bounced back strongly from the recession and has one of the strongest economies in the G7 nations.
Admittedly, the OECD has said productivity – stagnant for many years now – must improve in order for living standards to rise, but this is not part of the zero-hours plan. The Conservative-led Coalition wanted to put as many people as possible into jobs of any description, in order to claim a drop in unemployment – but zero-hours contracts, while helping businesses by eliminating in-work benefits like sick pay and holiday pay, do not help productivity at all; they use more people to achieve the same result.
In the case of the UK, it seems, they have been achieving worsening results, as dipping tax receipts have made all-too-clear. George Osborne claimed a surplus in January, but this is clearly a manufactured result, formed from panic after the last few tax revenue figures became public.
So what does Labour say about all this?
Scottish Nationalists will be surprised to learn that the party Pete Wishart believes is “cuddling up to the Tories” was unequivocally critical.
“The Tories’ plan is failing working families,” said Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary.
“While they prioritise a few at the top, for others there’s a rising tide of insecurity. Ministers have watered down every person’s rights at work and zero-hours contracts have gone from being a niche concept to becoming the norm in parts of our economy.
“The ONS’ findings today that there are now 1.8 million zero-hours contracts and that the number of people reporting they are on a zero-hours contract for their main job has risen by almost 20 per cent is yet another stark illustration of a recovery which is not working for working people.”
He said: “Labour’s Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity would ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, prohibit employers from requiring workers to be available on the off-chance they are needed, ensure zero-hours contract workers who have shifts cancelled at short notice receive compensation and give employees who consistently work regular hours the right to a fixed-hours contract.
“Ministers have sat on their hands and opposed our plans, in the face of rising insecurity for people.”
Bad figures: In July last year Alex Salmond claimed North Sea oil was worth “£300,000 for every man, woman and child in Scotland”. He may have been exaggerating – considerably. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/10198532/Alex-Salmond-North-Sea-oil-worth-300000-for-every-Scot.html)
What was Alex Salmond saying about oil revenues, again?
He said that oil would bring in revenues of £6.8billion – £7.9billion in 2016/17 (thanks to the Huffington Postfor the figures).
How likely does this seem, now that industry body Oil & Gas UK has reported that falling oil prices and rising costs meant the sector spent and invested £5.3bn more than it earned from sales during 2014?
That’s right – last year North Sea oil lost almost as much as the SNP said it would earn in 2016-17.
Operating costs are rising, investment is falling, the cost per barrel extracted has rocketed to a record high, and the price of oil internationally is at its lowest in years, according to the BBC.
While all this was taking place, Alex Salmond was telling Scottish people they could rely on oil generating £20.2billion in tax revenues in the first three years of an independent Scotland. Now – again according to the HuffPost – it seems unlikely to generate a quarter of that figure.
It is hard to believe that Mr Salmond did not know the facts about oil when he was offering the Scottish people all his rosy talk about future prosperity based on oil revenues.
Yet even today, many supporters of Scottish nationalism are adamant that Labour (above even the proven liars in the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties) misled them.
It’s certainly true that somebody has been lying to Scotland.
Is anybody brave enough to admit who it really was?
What an embarrassment: George Osborne’s silly ideas about the economy are enough to make anybody red-faced.
You probably won’t find the failure of the Conservative-led Coalition government laid out any more bluntly than this.
Speaking at Jaguar Land Rover in the West Midlands today (Monday), Ed Balls said George Osborne had failed to reduce the national deficit because of disappointing tax revenues.
“To make up that shortfall, George Osborne has now said he is going to carry on with even bigger spending cuts in the next parliament,” he said, adding that this will result in the biggest cuts in public services over the next five years in any country around the world.
“I don’t think that plan is remotely credible,” said Mr Balls.
Osborne cut public spending hard because he believed the claims of an academic thesis that has long-since been disproved, by Reinhart and Rogoff, that suggested states should not allow their national debt to rise above 90 per cent of GDP.
The result is clear: He stalled the UK economy.
The only way Osborne was able to get the UK moving again was by creating a new housing bubble (which is yet to burst) and by enabling employers to make real-terms cuts in wages, in what amounts to a fiddle of the employment figures.
But tax receipts don’t lie. Despite claims that we have more people in work now than ever before in history, the Treasury is taking less money.
And Osborne’s idea for regeneration is to repeat the strategy that stalled the economy in the first place?
What can we say about the HSBC bank’s activities, in advance of the BBC’s Panorama documentary this evening (BBC One, 8.30pm GMT)?
One: HSBC Bank has been helping thousands of wealthy clients to evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax. A nice dodge for the clients – and a nice earner for the bank!
Two: This is old news. HM Revenue and Customs was made aware of HSBC’s tax-avoiding practices in 2010 but from more than 7,000 British clients, the UK government has prosecuted just one person, despite having identified 1,100 tax avoiders. Didn’t George Osborne say there would be “no safe haven” for these people?
Three: HSBC did not just turn a blind eye to tax evaders – in some cases it broke the law by actively helping its clients. The example on the BBC News website is of a wealthy family who were given a foreign credit card in order to withdraw their undeclared cash overseas. The bank that likes to say “Oui”?
Four: The man in charge of HSBC at the time was Stephen Green. He gave up being chairman of the bank in December 2010, in order to become a Conservative peer and minister of state for trade and investment in January 2011. Who says crime doesn’t pay?
Four: Lord Green told Panorama: “As a matter of principle I will not comment on the business of HSBC past or present.” Honour amongst thieves?
Five: Add it all together and we can see that the Coalition government has not only allowed rich HSBC clients to steal money from the UK economy, but has actually colluded in it and rewarded the man in charge of the operation with a peerage and a cushy government job! All in it together, eh?
How unfortunate for the Tories that this has come out just 12 weeks before a general election!
Of course the Labour Party is all over this like a rash. Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury Cathy Jamieson said: “Tax avoidance and evasion harms every taxpayer in Britain, and undermines public services like the NHS.”
She said George Osborne needs to explain why just one person out of more than 1,000 has been prosecuted in five years, and how the then-chairman of HSBC, Stephen Green, could have been appointed a Conservative peer and a Minister by David Cameron just eight months after the Government was made aware of these activities taking place on his watch at HSBC.
“Once again the Tories have been exposed as unable and unwilling to take real action on tax avoidance – little wonder that under them the tax gap has risen, year on year,” was her judgement.
Richard Brooks, author of The Great Tax Robbery (Oneworld, 2013), knows a thing or two about tax avoidance and evasion. He summed up the Coalition government’s collusion on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, referring to an agreement between the UK and Swiss governments, signed in 2007, to bring in “billions of pounds” in unpaid tax.
He said: “David Gauke, Tax Minister, and David Hartnett the senior tax official, started negotiating it straight after they’d received this data from the French authorities, so they knew that there was a mass of evidence of tax evasion at the heart of HSBC.
“They set about negotiating agreement with the Swiss Government which says… that ‘it is highly unlikely to be in the public interest of the United Kingdom that professional advisors, Swiss paying agents and their employees – in other words bankers – will be subject to a criminal investigation by HMRC.’
“So, knowing they’re sitting on all this evidence, they’ve simply washed their hands of it and said ‘we’re not going to prosecute’. And that’s why no-one has come before the courts in five years.”
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