Article @ Morning Star, published 11 April 2016
Labour launched an attack on Britain’s wealth-hiding super-rich yesterday after a week which saw Prime Minister David Cameron exposed as a direct beneficiary of tax avoidance.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell revealed his new tax transparency enforcement programme yesterday, after Mr Cameron’s accounts revealed a potentially tax-dodging £200,000 gift from his mother in 2011.
Ms Cameron’s gift to her son is suspected to have been an attempt to avoid inheritance tax, which won’t apply to the gifted cash if she is still alive in 2018.
The Prime Minister’s fat finances were unveiled after increased public scrutiny following the Panama Papers scandal forced Mr Cameron to publish personal records dating back to 2010.
Commenting on Labour’s latest tax policy, Mr McDonnell said that after a “week of half-truths and spin” it was time “to clean out the tax havens.
“It should be a matter of shame to the British government that more than half the companies recently named in the Panama Papers were registered in UK-governed tax havens.
“It is deeply concerning that our Prime Minister has still failed to clarify whether or not he or his family were benefiting in 2013 when he was lobbying to prevent EU measures to better regulate trusts as a way to clamp down on tax avoidance.”
Mr McDonnell’s programme would include a public inquiry into any harm that firms and individuals connected to the Panama Papers leak might have done to British tax revenue.
He would also offer a cash boost for HMRC’s specialised tax enforcement unit, firm up anti-avoidance rules, work with European authorities to probe multinational deals and review the registration of trusts’ funds in offshore accounts.
Tax haven corruption is not just a tax issue — it drives at the very heart of our democracy and its credibility,” added Mr McDonnell.
“We risk eroding public trust in our democracy if we do not tackle the issue head on.”
Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that for “the greatest sense of openness,” not only politicians but also public figures should open up their books.
He said: “I think it is probably a good thing if we move generally in that direction so that everybody knows what influences are at play.
“Money and politics have to be treated with the greatest sense of openness possible so you know what influences are at work on any individual, on whatever political or any other decisions they make.
“You are involved in public life, for example, as a very important commentator on the BBC, as indeed many others are.
“I think we need to know what influence is at work on them.”New plans to criminalise companies aiding tax evasion are to be announced by Mr Cameron today in an attempt to draw a line under the Panama row.