Dave finds out what it’s like when the gutter press have it in for you

Cameron and PanamaAs readers may know, I’m not a politician and when I worked in politics, it wasn’t at the spaddy level where you’re actually listened to. Yet me, a lowly ex-bag carrier responsible for caseloads in an obscure constituency, knows the first rule on resolving a political crisis is to wrap it up as quickly as possible. The longer a story is attracting headlines, the more it becomes a talking point in the broadcast media, and the greater the likelihood you and/or your party will suffer reputation damage.

These basics have proven foreign to our beleaguered PM and his coterie of expensively clueless advisors. The self-inflicted difficulties Dave has faced over Daddy’s offshore doings was excruciating, and has proven to be his most painful week in office. Yes, worse and more damaging than budgetgeddon and their disingenuous hand-wringing about the steel industry. Dave knew his offshore offloading was going to look bad, so he should have dumped it all at the start of the week rather than let political enemies take chunks out of him. Some PR professional he’s turned out to be. Continue reading

Intense relaxation: John McTernan and the freedom to not pay tax

Businessman pocketing cash - Image Copyright: <a href="http://www.123rf.com/profile_zestmarina">zestmarina / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Peter Mandelson famously declared himself “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, as long as they pay their taxes”. His successors now appear intensely relaxed about the wealthy not paying their taxes at all. Senior Blairite John McTernan has responded to last weekend’s Panama Papers revelations by reassuring Telegraph readers that “tax avoidance is an expression of basic British freedoms.”

It also appears to be an expression of the basic Russian oligarch freedom to transfer huge kickbacks out of their country, and the inalienable right of dodgy Middle East politicians to set up shell companies in jurisdictions with banking regulations so light touch that they would make Gordon Brown blush, but let that pass.  Continue reading

Big four banks (with 1,629 subsidiaries in tax havens) are rotten heart of UK economy

Big 4 banksThe more that comes to light about the nefarious activities of the Big four banks, the more extraordinary it is that these banks (a) demand a return to business as usual (which of course caused the financial crash in the first place), (b) continue to fight back against any reforms of a dysfunctional finance sector, feeble though these measures are, (c) show not a scintilla of remorse or apology for the decade of disaster they’ve imposed on ordinary people and the economy as a whole (remember Bob Diamond’s infamous comment “It’s time to move on” as though nothing had happened), and (d) have never been held to account by prosecutions of the chief executives, finance directors and other executives responsible. This is all the more staggering when what has now been revealed is the enormous extent to which all 4 banks not only indulged in, but actively promoted, tax evasion/avoidance on an industrial scale. Barclays has 385 subsidiary companies in tax havens (36% of all its subsidiaries), HSBC has 550, Lloyds has 290, and RBS has 404! Continue reading

Non-doms: this extra scam for the ultra-rich must be abolished

Helmsley-only-little-people-pay-taxesOne of the scams highlighted by the HSBC Swiss bank scandal, and then quickly ignored, is the continuing absurd anachronism of the non-dom rules. Stuart Gulliver, the shamed CEO of HSBC, though living in London in order to run the second largest bank in Europe and routing his bonus through a Panamanian company to escape tax, is perfectly legally allowed to avoid tax on all his overseas income because he is technically domiciled in Hong Kong. Even more incongruously, since most non-doms inherit their status from their father, it is possible for people who have been born, educated and lived in Britain for 50 years or more to have non-dom status, even is they hold British passports. All that they have to do to keep all offshore income and capital gains out of the British tax net is to show that they retain strong links to their home country and to show some intention of returning there. Continue reading

How we should get tougher on the tax cheats

George-Osborne-tax-dodger credit: 38 DegreesThe revelations in the Guardian, BBC Panorama and elsewhere are truly staggering. It shows how a HSBC-owned private bank in Switzerland actively colluded with hyper-rich clients to enable them to avoid EU taxes, to conceal undeclared ‘black’ accounts from their domestic tax authorities, to help them withdraw bricks of cash in foreign currencies so as to launder huge sums of money from tax havens for use in their own countries without paying tax (used most notoriously by the British clothing tycoon and restaurateur Richard Caring to withdraw 5 million Swiss francs, equal to £2.25m, from his Geneva bank on one day in 2005), and to provide accounts for international criminals and corrupt businessmen.

HSBC have defended themselves by saying they have now improved their standards of due diligence, but the truth is that this massive outburst of tax fiddling, a microcosm of the global tax cheating, would still be continuing today but for the whistleblowing by an IT worker at the bank who hacked into the Swiss bank’s 30,000 accounts and fled with them to France.

There are several profoundly serious lessons to be drawn from this episode. Continue reading