Hedge fund chief and Conservative party treasurer Lord Fink is completely out of step with public sensibilities (Make UK more like a tax haven –Tory treasurer, 21 September). Tax havens offer more than a low tax rate – the secrecy that is often their chief attraction allows unethical business practices, corruption, money laundering and a host of other nefarious practices to thrive.
The UK must already bear a large share of responsibility for this. Roughly half the world’s tax havens today are in Crown dependencies, British overseas territories, or Commonwealth countries. London itself was 13th in a recent financial secrecy index drawn up by Christian Aid and the Tax Justice Network, which ranked 72 jurisdictions offering financial services according to the amount of international business they handle and the secrecy their clients enjoy.
A poll held at the launch of the present Christian Aid/Church Action on Poverty tax justice bus tour of the UK showed that a majority of the British public regard tax avoidance by multinationals across the world as “morally wrong” and want David Cameron to demand international action to tackle both tax avoidance and evasion. The poll also found that most want multinational corporations to be more transparent about their finances, believing it is too easy for them to avoid UK tax.
Developing countries lose more than they receive in aid to tax-dodging by multinationals – some $160bn a year. Tax havens play a major role in the haemorrhaging of much-needed tax revenues from countries rich and poor and so we are looking to Cameron not to join them but to lead international action against them in 2013, when the UK chairs the G8.
Senior UK political adviser, Christian Aid
• Global Witness has revealed how some of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper and cobalt mines may have been sold at prices vastly under market valuations to companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, losing the government billions. Some of the mining stakes are said to have been sold on soon after to a FTSE-100 company, for much higher amounts. Someone pocketed a fortune, but the Congolese people have no means of finding out who has benefited from these secret deals.
Senior campaigner, Global Witness
• Your article perpetuates a heresy that obfuscates any true understanding of the relevant issues. If by it you meant to say that to boost domestic UK productivity tax rates should be lowered with an emphasis on indirect taxation, that is to say the Cayman Islands model, you are correct. But the criticism of the Cayman Islands based on “opaque practices”, given Cayman’s International Organisation of Securities Commissions membership and of “secrecy”, given the extensive all-crimes, anti-money laundering and tax information treaties, is outdated and inaccurate. The question that should be asked is why, in the light of these treaties over the last 20 years, has the Cayman financial services industry prospered?
Chairman, Cayman Islands stock exchange
• It seems calls for the UK to compete with tax havens like the Cayman Islands have not fallen on deaf ears. Changes in this year’s budget remove tax from a large part of the “invisible earnings” that UK companies route through tax-haven subsidiaries. This will cost the UK nearly £1bn a year, according to the Treasury, while we estimate developing countries may lose as much as £4bn annually.
Several of the companies you name claim their tax haven subsidiaries bring no tax benefit. It’s time they were required to prove it, through mandatory disclosure of arrangements used to reduce tax both here and in the world’s poorest countries. And real international action is long overdue against the tax havens which make such schemes possible. This month’s party conferences offer an opportunity for each party to set out their plans to start closing tax loopholes, not open them.
Tax justice policy adviser, ActionAid
• If tax havens grow, power will shift decisively to the corporations. The change would destroy the tax-base of governments the world over. That is the hidden Tory agenda. The left would be terminally debilitated. The UK should not contemplate the use of tax-haven techniques. The alternative strategy is “market denial”. The UK should act jointly, with UN partners, to deny market access to any company which uses any tax haven. All trading corporations need markets. Our national market is our greatest national asset. Therein lies the bargaining power of the state. It should be Illegal for tax-avoiding corporations to trade in the UK or in any partner state.
Roger Warren Evans
• The news that at least 68 MPs or peers are heavily involved with companies which lodge their wealth in tax havens raises questions about the integrity of these lawmakers and their loyalty towards the wellbeing of this country. It is time we began to regard taxes as a necessary means of protecting the interests and enhancing the welfare of all our citizens rather than as a means of punishing the wealthy (which the rich seem to believe). And it is for our lawmakers to fulfil their solemn duty of ensuring that taxes are fairly levied and the proceeds put to good and proper use. That there is a significant number of them so closely associated with tax-avoiding companies suggests that they have no such commitment.
• Fink refers to the “register of interests”. Perhaps you could publish a supplement cross-referencing political, family and other factors. That would assist readers to really understand what is going on with our representatives and their senior party managers and the potential effect of their networks. It would certainly aid comprehension of the opinions we hear from them. If you could link it to landowners’ EU subsidies paid (say over £100,000), even better.
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