Sunday, 23 September 2012

Groundhog Day

Nobody does that deja vu thing better than treasury secretary Danny Alexander when he gets up on the conference podium and talks tough about cracking down on tax evasion.

Last year he promised more tax inspectors, although the Public and Commercial Services union claim it didn't actually happen - due to staffing cuts. The year before the emphasis was on serious action to clamp down on the use of tax havens.

Danny is to return to this theme this year, not because he's fond of the subject but because next to nothing has been accomplished to date. So his announcement is an intention to soak the super rich and grab back the UK part of an estimated global $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in off-shore accounts. This will of course include recruitment of more staff, yada-yada.

There is no mention though (yet again) of any political hardening over accommodations reached by HMRC with international corporations such as Vodafone and Google who allegedly employ an "aggressive policy" towards taxation that effectively amounts to non-payment.

Last month, revenue chiefs hailed a series of court decisions that saw £200 million return to the Exchequer after a number of avoidance schemes were ruled illegal. Yet this would appear to be small beer as deeply technical arguments continue between several tax research groups and HMRC as to whether the actual tax shorftall arising from corporate evasion is closer to £70 billion rather than the considerably lower official figures.

There is no doubting that Alexander has a tough job. What makes it hugely more difficult in terms of outcome is being politically wedded to the likes of tory treasurer Lord Fink. It was recently reported that the Conservative party donor and hedge fund chief had lobbied George Osborne for a cut in taxes on invisible earnings so that he and others no longer feel obliged to set up companies in places such as the Cayman Islands.

From the public's perspective, any political party wanting to portray themselves as promoting fair taxation should begin by looking at the affairs of the 68 MPs and peers who are directors of firms linked to offshore jurisdictions - rather than a few cash-in-hand payments made to plumbers.

Like that's ever going to happen.

Update: Recommended reading - Jackie Ashley (Guardian) -  The Liberal Democrat conference has given fantasy a leading role

1 comment:

  1. Marcus18:36

    Lib Dems are losing faith in their policies and their leadership: Membership survey results on


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