Monday 4 April 2016

Green MEP: Panama Papers show UK is at centre of global tax avoidance schemes

Molly Scott Cato MEP, Green Party speaker on economics and finance, has responded to the so called Panama Papers – around eleven million documents held by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which reveal how the company has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax. Molly said:
What becomes clear from the revelations contained in the Panama Papers is that it is the UK that is at the centre of the global network of tax havens that facilitates tax avoidance and crime. More than half the companies listed in the documents are registered in British-administered tax havens or the UK itself. This is deeply embarrassing for us as a country and reveals as entirely hollow the Chancellor’s claim to be cracking down on tax avoidance.

If we are to restore our national pride we must see steps taken immediately to deal with the nefarious relationships between apparently respectable companies based in The City and their dubious associates in the Crown dependencies and overseas territories. We need to end the convenient anachronism of such jurisdictions: either they should become a part of the United Kingdom and subject to our laws or they should acquire independence. In addition we need to put an end to shell companies and ensure much greater transparency on beneficial ownership.

1 comment:

Philip Grant said...

For much of my 25 years as one of H.M. Inspectors of Taxes, Chancellors of the Exchequer were claiming to be cracking down on tax avoidance.

I can remember, in the 1980's, when a couple of sitting Tory MP's were, at the same time, active directors of Britain's then top off-shore tax avoidance company, Rossminster.

Even worse, for a time in the 1990's, one of the country's top tax avoidance barristers, Peter Rees QC, was a Conservative Treasury Minister in charge of the Inland Revenue! Those of us in the front line of trying to tackle tax avoidance and evasion were left wondering whose side he was on.

Then, when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, he was cutting tax inspector posts (as an "efficiency" measure) when more were needed to fight a rampant tax avoidance "industry" (much of it promoted by the "capital" arms of the big banks, who the Chancellor seemed to believe were driving the economic growth that he was so proud of).

If Chancellors really wanted to crack down on tax avoidance, they would give Tax Inspectors the tools, manpower and encouragement to do the job. As it was, under Gordon Brown I had had enough, and took early retirement.

(... and yes, I had tried to get behind the beneficial ownership of Panamanian companies with bearer shares - and even on the odd occasion when I was successful, I would be told that the bearer shares were held by a Trust in Leichtenstein, and that under the laws of that state it would be a criminal offence to disclose who the beneficiaries of that Trust were!)