Who’s ever heard of David Gauke, the junior Treasury minister, before he announced yesterday that paying tradesmen cash in hand was “morally wrong” because it denied the Treasury vital funds and everyone else would then have to pay more tax. His only previous claim to fame is that he claimed £10,000 expenses when he bought his London flat, as though that didn’t mean that taxpayers had to pay out more to cover his expenses. But what really adds hypocrisy to Gauke’s pronouncement is that it came only a week after a new report, undertaken by an ex-McKinsey economist, found that the level of offshoring wealth in tax havens by the super-rich elite is now estimated to have reached the staggering level of £13 trillions, nearly 9 times the UK’s total GDP. The problem’s not paying plumbers in cash, it’s letting just 92,000 people stash away £6.3 trillions and doing little or nothing to stop it.
Gauke has once again tried to pull off the Tory trick – blame ordinary people, the little man, for their failure to do the right thing in order to conceal that the problem overwhelmingly lies elsewhere with the amorality of the extreme rich in tax dodging on a mega-scale. And the problem lies also with government itself. Over the last decade the number of tax inspectors, as a result of corporate lobbying, has been cut by over 200, even though analysis shows that each of these inspectors earns for the Treasury between 30-180 times their salary.
Moreover it’s government (both Tory and New Labour) who not only ran a regulation-lit regime in the City, conniving at the industrial scale activities of City lawyers and accountants making fortunes in fees for helping rich clients circumvent the law, but also blocked every initiative in Brussels designed to bring tax avoidance/evasion to heel. It’s the UK government which is still blocking the EU Tax Savings Directive being used to tackle offshore trusts, a favourite tool of the tax-cheating industry, and also blocking the efforts of all the other main EU governments to bring in a Financial Transactions Tax.
Above all, the simplest quickest way to forestall all the artificial contrivances used to benefit both corporate and individual tax defrauders would be a General Anti-Tax Avoidance Principle enshrined in statute. I have a bill before Parliament at this very time aimed to do exactly that, but the government are seeking to block it. As someone once said, Gauke should be more concerned about the beam in his own eye than the splinter he purports to see in others’.