A Land Registry inventory of title deeds, just published, is yet another piece of evidence revealing the hypocrisy of Osborne’s “we’re all in it together” in austerity. What it shows is that in just two central London boroughs the ownership of property worth £88.5bn has been transferred offshore to escape payment of stamp duty and inheritance tax. It is estimated that this costs the Exchequer about £1.7bn a year in tax evaded. Whilst this is concentrated in the richest areas of London, this tax dodge is now spreading to other cities like Manchester, Derby and Leeds. We are told that money is so tight that the cap on housing benefit and the cutback for families of disabled children must be maintained whilst the super-rich are laughing all the way to their offshore bank.
It’s not as though the government didn’t know about these wheezes and have been surprised by these latest revelations. The truth is they’ve consistently followed a policy of ignoring tax-dodging by rich individuals and big corporations, always preferring to look the other way or, like Nelson, put the telescope to their blind eye. Dave Hartnett, the head of HMRC, was rumbled letting off Goldman Sachs – the giant vampire squid itself – a huge tax levy in a secret deal. Vodaphone was allowed to walk away with a £6bn tax let-off – why did it require UKUncut to draw this to the nation’s attention? The number of tax inspectors has been reduced, after lobbying from Big Business, by 26% from 99,200 in 2005 to just 73,700 in 2010, and tax collected has correspondingly dropped in the last 3 years from £462bn in 2008 to £436bn in 2010.
This is a case, as everything else with this government (and New Labour as well), of the rich socialising the losses and privatising the gains. The bankers crash the economy, but keep their bonuses, and the rest of the population picks up the tab. The super-rich make stratospheric gains in both wealth and income and then don’t pay their taxes, and the rest of the population have to pay more tax. How long is this country going to go on tamely accepting austerity when, if the super-rich were made to pay their due taxes, there need be no austerity at all?