Tag Archives: wealth

Publish the tax returns of the biggest 250 companies and of the 250 wealthiest individuals

They’re all at it.   It’s not just Starbucks , Google and Amazon that are running rings round HMRC and the tax laws, it’s virtually all the top UK 250 companies which are deliberately cheating UK taxpayers of the tax receipts due.   No less than 98% of the FTSE-100 companies have a subsidiary in a tax haven, the only purpose of which is tax evasion/avoidance on an industrial scale.    Only today yet another massive tax scam has been exposed, this time involving Britain’s largest mobile phone network – Everything Everywhere (EE) – which scooped up £3bn profits for the French and German companies that own it, but paid not a penny in corporation tax in the UK.    Vodafone, O2 and Three are little better.    EE defends itself by saying “its accounts are transparent and it takes a responsible approach’ (UMG – the usual meaningless guff).    How do they get away with this?   Largely through tax breaks, management fees, royalties, and offshoring.   But probably the most important ingredient in all these tax fiddles is opacity which enables their manoeuvres to remain hidden.   Yet there are ways to counter all of these dodges
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Tax returns of all major companies and super-rich individuals should be published

Progress is being made bit by bit in the fight against tax avoidance/evasion, as revealed today in the decision of the Swiss government to loosen its tight bank secrecy laws so that its banks can under US pressure, which forced one Swiss bank to close, reach settlements with the US regarding their involvement in enabling US citizens avoid/evade tax.   However, these and similar agreements are limited measures which are specific and localised in their effects, and often still hedged around with conditional qualifications.   The best weapon to name and shame tax cheats is transparency, and the most widespread and effective means of achieving transparency is by establishing the principle of published tax returns.   Nor is this such a radical policy as it may initially sound since UK wills are already public documents and Norway, Finland, and Sweden among others already operate this principle.
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Corporate tax scams in developing countries the next target

It is staggering that, according to the recent Annan report, Africa loses twice as much each year from tax avoidance, offshoring company registration, financial transfers, and corrupt mining deals secretly hidden, than the total it receives as a continent in aid.   The most recent scandal concerns the concession deal extracted by a FTSE-100 company, the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, in the Congo whereby it bought 5 mining stakes which were State assets at far below their true value.   Clearly there were corrupt officials involved as well as scheming and greedy corporate executives, but the loss to the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated at $1.3bn.   What puts that in perspective is that that is the equivalent of their total health and education budgets combined.   Given that Annan calculates that the loss to the African continent each year from financial skulduggery of this kind is of the order of £25bn, that indicates that scandals of the ENRC kind are multiplied up to 40 fold.
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Osborne’s ‘trap’ of forcing vote on cutting benefits should be turned against him

On Tuesday what Osborne prided himself was a smart move will be launched to put Labour on the back foot by challenging it to vote against his bill cutting benefits and tax credits by 4% in real terms over the next 3 years and thus be portrayed as the scroungers’ friend.    He misjudged.   Labour will rightly vote against the bill which is deeply unfair, but it has also given the party a perfect opportunity to argue the profound injustice of making the poorest sections of the population bear the overwhelming burden of cutting the deficit caused by the bankers’ recklessness whilst the rich who did cause it get off virtually scot-free.   And Labour has also devised an alternative proposal to rebut any charge that it’s soft on the workshy.
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Deregulation + maximizing private market profits = Barclays, G4S, HSBC

If you burgle some houses and remove some £20,000 worth of swag, and you’re caught, you’ll be sent to prison.   If you run a bank and by your recklessness and folly require bailouts costing the taxpayer £70bn + £850bn asset support costs, or if you launder billions for drug cartels, terrorists or pariah states through offshore accounts, you don’t get prosecuted.   The fact that there’s one law for the 99% of the population and another for the 1% economic elite could hardly be clearer.   The underlying theme connecting all this unending stream of huge scandals – the financial bubble imploding in 2008, the MPs’ expenses fiddles, Murdoch’s phone-hacking to increase newspaper sales, police corruption in protecting people in high places, Barclays’ LIBOR interest rate-fixing, G4S able to rake off hundreds of millions from the State despite utter incompetence, and now HSBC money-laundering on an industrial scale – is that if you de-regulate all controls to private markets driven by the urge to maximize profits, this is what you get: an economic system rotting on the inside where the super-rich get away with it and dump all the blame, and the costs, on to everyone else.
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Good news: tax is voluntary if you’re paid over £1 million

So now we know.   The Treasury have finally published figures they’ve been sitting on for years but never revealed (always keep the rich on side – a good Treasury motto).   It shows there are 10,000 UK taxpayers paid (‘earning’ is a bit of a euphemism) £1-5m (i.e. between £19,230-£96,155 PER WEE),  and 1,000 of them pay just 30-40% in tax, 500 pay 20-30% in tax, and 300 pay less than 10%.   It also shows that there are some 400 taxpayers paid £5-10m (i.e. roughly between £100,000 – £200,000 PER WEEK), and 20 of them pay less than 20% in tax.   Much more modestly, if you’re only paid between a quarter and a half of a million (i.e. a mere £4,800-£9,615 PER WEEK), then about 100,000 persons in your category are paying less than the higher rate of income tax of 40%.   The question is: are these gigantic sums, up to 415 times the national average wage, justified and if not, what are we going to do about it?

First, let all the facts be known.   Let the fresh breezes of transparency blow through the income scale at the top.   It is significant that the only reason we know about these figures quoted here at all is not because of any new doctrine of openness (you must be joking), it’s because the Government were trying to put up some defence of their gross miscalculation in limiting tax relief for the rich, by showing that the super-rich get away with avoiding far too much tax.

It blew up in their faces because the Tory press (Telegraph, Mail and the usual suspects) all ganged up to complain this was an unfair tax on philanthropy – not that they care about philanthropy, only about not limiting tax avoidance in general since the vast amount of tax avoidance is not about philanthropy at all.   Significantly almost the only intervention that Tony (Tory-boy) Blair has made in UK politics since his demise 5 years ago was his call yesterday for the government to “think again” about limiting tax relief.   But we should be grateful for small mercies – it’s always important to remember that the general population of us plebs is only vouchsafed information about the secret doings of our rich rulers when there’s an almighty bust-up within their own ranks.

So to avoid all this unseemly shenanigans amongst our super-rich exemplars, why don’t we require HMRC to publish the tax returns of all those paid more than £150,000 a year (i.e. the 300,000 persons getting more than £3,000 a week)?   That would only affect 1% of the population, and could be guaranteed to play a big role in reducing tax relief across the board, exposing the multiple use of tax havens, and even (heaven forbid!) reducing some of this financial obesity flab altogether.
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The true face of Toryism is now being exposed

The reporting this weekend is very revealing.   A few months before the election Cameron asserted that “secret corporate lobbying was the next big scandal waiting to happen”, but he would run a sleaze-free government.   We now know he apoointed 3 weeks ago as Tory party fundraiser a man who made nearly a £1bn fortune from financial spread-betting and who advertised that the Prime Minister would be open for business to anyone who joined the ‘premier league’ by donating £250,000 to the Tory party.   Osborne promised in his budget a crackdown on tax avoidance, but 3 days later the Tory co-treasurer is revealed soliciting donations from Liechtenstein, a well-known tax haven, as well as actually illegal under electoral law.   Now we learn too that the Tory decision before the election to block a third runway at Heathrow is to be reversed; having won votes before the election protecting communities in west London, Cameron now finds it expedient to succumb to the business lobby (or was this always a well-prepared fix beforehand to gather in votes in advance of the money?).
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Do the public want a privatised police?

The argument put forward by the West Midlands and Surrey forces in putting out a £1.5bn contract for greater private sector involvement in policing is that it would allow private companies to carry out routine and repetitive tasks at cheaper rates whilst allowing highly trained and professional police officers to concentrate more time on key activities which require their skills and expertise.   An enticing idea, but in practice full of pitfalls.   There is the fraught question of where to draw the line between the work of a warranted officer and that of imported civilian personnel, and if this is left to individual chief constables there are likely to be wide variations across the country leading perhaps to lack of cross-force cooperation.   But wherever the line is drawn, there will be the risk of privatisation creep without public understanding or approval.   Indeed perhaps the central issue is, do the public really want this?   Their desire to get assurance from the visible presence of uniformed officers on the beat will be thwarted.   Should a major reform of this kind go ahead without some clear indication of public consent?
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Workfare climbdown doesn’t end Tory punitive action v. young jobless

It was always absurd that a young person aged between 16-24 was forced to undergo an unpaid work placement for up to 8 weeks on the basis that it was ‘voluntary’, yet if they left for any reason they would suffer the sanction of loss of unemployment benefit for 2 weeks.   But what is most revealing about yesterday’s government backdown is not only that it was strongly resisted by the relevant government ministers, Duncan Smith and Grayling, but the employers also didn’t reject work experience under such conditions because it was exploitative, but rather because it harmed their own reputation to be seen administering such a scheme.   The government only gave way perforce when enough employers threatened to withdraw which would have scuppered the whole project. 
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