If He's Really Serious, Brown Must Tackle the Tax Havens; ROAD TO THE G20

Daily Mail (London), March 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

If He's Really Serious, Brown Must Tackle the Tax Havens; ROAD TO THE G20


Byline: MATTHEW OAKESHOTT

Gordon Brown has repeatedly called for a clampdown on tax havens and has vowed to make it a central aim of this week's G20 summit.

But if the government were really serious, it would tackle tax avoidance practised by British banks, argues the Liberal Democrats' MATTHEW OAKESHOTT

TAX havens are sunny places for shady people. No one sends their money to Monaco, or the Caymans, or Antigua because they are centres of excellence for fund management.

You use a tax haven because you have something to hide, be it from the taxman or the authorities where you live, or even your family.

The apologists for tax havens call it 'low tax and low disclosure'.

But if you are Mobutu or Mugabe, Imelda Marcos or a Colombian with a big briefcase, a brass plate company in an anonymous office block means your millions leave no trace and tell no tales.

Gordon Brown struts the world stage as Mr Clean-up, the man to make tax-dodgers quake in their boots.

Why then did the Treasury announce only last week that the Asset Protection Scheme (for banks to dump their bad debts on taxpayers) and the code of practice covering tax avoidance for the banking sector, due next month, are 'separate issues'? That's the most un-joined-up government imaginable.

We all rejoice at the sinner who repenteth - but this is the same Gordon Brown who cuddled up to the bankers so hard it hurt as Chancellor, and buried his poor officials trying to tax non-doms in the darkest corner of the Treasury basement with strict instructions to stay there.

He showed no interest in taxing or regulating hedge funds registered in the Cayman Islands and run by non-doms in Mayfair, or the private equity millionaires with their absurdly generous special tax breaks.

So stop posing Mr Brown, and start using the powers you have to stamp out tax abuse right under your nose in London. You don't have to take a Caribbean cruise - stroll to Westminster pier for a boat down the Thames to Canary Wharf.

Too many big British businesses twist and turn to dodge tax in this country. They put white van man to shame.

Their glossy corporate governance reports say nothing about paying your fair share of tax to meet your obligations to society where you operate.

Good corporate citizens don't just smear on green lipstick and tick the boxes on diversity. …

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