“Firms on Caribbean island chain own 23,000 UK properties”

[The article says £1.5 billion of property is owned by these companies in the south-west of England]

“A quarter of property in England and Wales owned by overseas firms is held by entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, BBC analysis has found.

The Caribbean archipelago is the official home of companies that own 23,000 properties – more than any other country.

They are owned by 11,700 firms registered in the overseas territory.
The finding emerged from BBC analysis conducted of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership.

The research found there are around 97,000 properties in England and Wales held by overseas firms, as of January 2018. It adds to concerns that companies registered in British-controlled tax havens have been used to avoid tax.

Close behind the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which has a population of just 30,600, are Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Of the properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales, two thirds are registered to firms in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Many foreign UK property owners are also officially headquartered in Hong Kong, Panama and Ireland.

The analysis provides a new picture of ownership of property by overseas companies in England and Wales following a decision last November to make the database public and free to access.

It found:
Close to half (44%) of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in London

More than one in ten (11,500) properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in the City of Westminster

More than 6,000 properties owned by foreign companies are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The government of the British Virgin Islands said it was incorrect to label the country as a tax haven.

It said that there were many practical reasons why UK properties might be owned by companies incorporated in the BVI. It argued that BVI companies can bring together multiple investors and owners, which is useful for big commercial property deals that have investors in more than one country.
The BVI also said that it shared “necessary information” including ownership details with relevant authorities. …”


Government tax avoidance measures fail to bring in avoided tax

“A crackdown on offshore tax cheats has only recovered about a third of the £1bn that the government had predicted, according to estimates.

Figures from HM Revenue & Customs suggest that a series of measures to tackle offshore tax evasion will only bring in £349m a year – £650m a year less than had been hoped for.

Other measures aimed at closing tax avoidance loopholes have also failed to generate the revenues that had been expected, undermining assurances from ministers that were made following the Paradise Papers exposé.

Paradise Papers: Davos panel calls for global corporate tax reform
The figure appears in a list of updated estimates provided by HMRC to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility over the last two years and released under a freedom of information request by the Labour party.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said these figures exposed “the utter failure” of the government to ensure the super-rich and big corporations were paying their fair share in tax.

“This could be just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. McDonnell said that after the Paradise Papers revelations last year, the government had been quick to promise action but slow to deliver on it. “Now they have been shown to not even deliver on what they originally promise,” he said.

Measures have been launched to tackle the use of offshore accounts to hide money from HMRC, including agreements with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other low-tax regimes to recover unpaid tax.

In total, these measures were forecast to bring in an extra £997m a year to the Treasury. However, a new forecast in September 2017, after most of the measures had closed, downgraded that figure to £349m a year.

Labour says a total of 28 anti-avoidance measures introduced under the coalition and Conservative government were bringing in less than expected, and that the gap between the tax take originally expected from them and the revised forecasts totalled £2.1bn, or 25%.

Measures that are now expected to raise less than originally forecast include a package of moves to tackle base-erosion and profit-shifting, where companies artificially move profits to locations with low tax rates.

These, which included new taxes on diverted profits and royalties, were expected to bring in a total of £515m a year but are now expected to raise £175m less each year.

Accelerated payments, whereby investors in avoidance schemes are asked to pay any disputed tax upfront, were forecast to bring in £1.1bn annually, £154m more than the latest forecasts suggest has been raised.

Some measures have yielded more than the original forecasts predicted, and offset some of the £2.1bn difference. For instance, the sums raised through cracking down on the way company takeovers are structured have been revised up to 554% of the original forecast. Preventing companies from avoiding stamp duty by cancelling and reissuing shares during a takeover is forecast to make the Treasury £425m a year against an original figure of £65m.

McDonnell said the downwards revision of other forecasts showed the Conservatives were dragging their feet on tax avoidance. …”


Toys ‘R Us alleged tax avoidance could fully fund Devon’s NHS cuts!

Devon has to find £560 million if it wants to avoid savage cuts to its NHS.

Owl has found the money! Now all it has to do is find a way of getting it back from the BRITISH Virgin Islands (note: does that mean they belong to Branson!) to Devon!

“Toys R Us was last night accused of funnelling £584million into an offshore tax haven as it teetered on the brink of collapse – putting 3,200 jobs at risk.

The ailing retailer, which could go into administration today, has been criticised for the write-off of a mystery £584.5million loan to a company in the British Virgin Islands, a territory commonly used by firms for tax avoidance purposes.

Tax experts have called for an investigation into the accounts, accusing Toys R Us of secrecy and tax dodging. …”


“World Inequality Report: Fight wealth inequality with taxes”

Further to the article already posted today:

“Income inequality can lead to “catastrophes,” but there are ways to fight it, according to the World Inequality Report. “Everything depends on the choices that will be made,” says renowned economist Thomas Piketty. …

… Government still have tools to fight inequality, such as boosting access to education, improving health policies, environmental protection, setting up “healthy” minimum wage rates, and adopting better representation of workers in corporate governance bodies.

Perhaps most notably, the authorities should establish so-called “progressive” tax systems, that demand people to pay proportionately more tax with accumulation of wealth. The experts also urged called for a new global register of ownership of financial assets to combat tax evasion and money laundering. …”


The budget: well, at least Hammond will be ok

“… Hammond is one of Parliament’s richest MPs with a net worth estimated at £8.2million in 2014.

He made much of his money after setting up housing and nursing home developer Castlemead in 1984.

He still benefits from a trust that controls the firm, alongside his £143,000 salary for being a minister and MP.

But he refused point-blank to publish his tax return – leaving it difficult to estimate what he’s worth now. …”


“Why do people care more about benefit ‘scroungers’ than billions lost to the rich?”

Last year’s British Social Attitudes survey asked Britons about their feelings on this issue. Our analysis of this data (with Ben Baumberg Geiger of the University of Kent) revealed that the British public believes tax avoidance to be commonplace (around one third of taxpayers are assumed to have exploited a tax loophole). In moral terms, people seem rather ambivalent; less than half (48%) thought that legal tax avoidance was “usually or always wrong”.

By contrast, more than 60% of Britons believe it is “usually or always wrong” for poorer people to use legal loopholes to claim more benefits. In other words, people are significantly more likely to condemn poor people for using legal means to obtain more benefits than they are to condemn rich people for avoiding tax. This is a consistent finding across many different studies. For example, detailed interviews conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis found that people “tended to be far more exercised by the prospect of low-income groups exploiting the system than they were about high-income groups doing the same”.

This discrepancy is reflected in government priorities. Deep public antipathy towards benefit “scroungers” has been the rock upon which successive Conservative-led parliaments have built the case for austerity. Throughout his premiership, David Cameron, along with his chancellor, George Osborne, kept the opposition between “hardworking people” and lazy benefit claimants right at the centre of their messaging on spending cuts. Though gestures have been made towards addressing widespread tax avoidance by the wealthy, very little has actually been achieved. This stands in stark contrast to the scale and speed with which changes have been made to welfare legislation.

Will the Paradise Papers shift the public’s focus? The leaks alone are seemingly not enough. The 2016 British Social Attitudes survey was conducted just four months after the release of the Panama Papers. Even then, the British public remained more concerned about benefit claimants than tax avoiders.