As is reported in the Times (£) today, Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, accepted and received a fortnight ago a donation of £2,500 for the running of his personal office from chartered tax advisers Signature Tax whose website describes its services as “a progressive tax planning boutique delivering tailored tax solutions to individuals and organisations internationally“.
According to their website, Signature Tax provides specialist advice on off-shore tax arrangements such as those Chuka has previously advised Barclays bank to close down, to clients who are subject to HMRC investigations, and on structures designed to avoid HMRC’s Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regulations.
In the period before he was elected as an MP in 2010, when he presented himself as on the left, Chuka Umunna described tax avoidance as “daylight robbery” and pushed for an end to the tax loopholes whose promoters now fund his activities speaking for Labour on business, innovation, trade and regulation. His office (like those of Ed Balls and Jim Murphy) has also ‘benefited’ in the last year from the secondment of research assistance by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to the value of over £60,000.
Margaret Hodge, the public accounts select committee chair, says the inside knowledge gained by PWC and similar accountancy firms through secondments are “tantamount to a scam” and represent a “ridiculous conflict of interest” which should be stopped:
The large accountancy firms are in a powerful position in the tax world and have an unhealthily cosy relationship with government.”
Given that Chuka Umunna has previously been accused of double standards because his family home had been purchased through a trust based in Jersey which Chuka has himself described as a “well-known tax haven”, you might have expected more discretion.
When it came to taking money from the trade unions, Chuka Umunna told told the Today programme on Radio 4:
I think undoubtedly … we’re going to take a hit in terms of our finances… We will see [how much], but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the right thing to do.”
But when it comes to taking money from those who help the tax dodgers dodge their tax, “doing the right thing” doesn’t seem to count for as much.