Treasury offices part-owned offshore

Article @ Morning Star, published 12 April 2016

The Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs were drawn deeper into the tax-dodging scandal engulfing the British Establishment yesterday after their headquarters were found to be partly owned by companies registered in the Channel Islands.

Earlier, HMRC chief Edward Troup was outed as having been a partner in the law firm representing Ian Cameron’s offshore business.

HMRC’s 600 offices around Britain are rented from Bermuda-based Mapeley Steps Ltd, the Star reported last November.

And we can now reveal that official documents show even the Treasury’s main building on Westminster’s Great George Street is owned by Exchequer Partnership Holdings Ltd as part of a private finance initiative (PFI).

While the company itself is registered to a Manchester address, the Star found that 25 per cent of its shares are held by Lend Lease PFI/PPP Infrastructure CIHL Holdings Ltd — based in St Helier, Jersey.

The People Vs PFI campaign spokesman Joel Benjamin told the Star: “The government institutions that set and regulate financial and tax policy have both have sold off their offices of state to companies operating in known tax havens, and have themselves become embedded within an accepted culture of tax avoidance.

“How can HMRC be taken seriously in its attempts to tackle tax avoidance, when its UK offices are rented from an offshore firm?”

The Treasury will be handing Exchequer Partnership Holdings a whooping £22.9 million this year as part of its 37-year PFI contract payments.

The £204.1m deal for HMRC’s HQ runs for the same amount of time — each installment costing the taxpayer up to £45 million.

An HMRC spokesman said: “This contract is 15 years old. The world has moved on and we would not enter into a contract stuctured in this way today.”

The Home Office is another of the government departments currently renting its headquarters from an offshore company — Guernsey’s HSBC Infrastructure Company Ltd.

Civil Service union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The fallout from the Panama Papers is exposing issues we have campaigned on for years.

“The fact these offices are run by companies registered in tax havens, while thousands of HMRC jobs continue to be cut, is just one of the many compelling reasons why we’re backing John McDonnell’s review of our tax system.”

The Treasury had not responded to requests for comment by the time the Star went to press.