“UK minister rebuffs call to make tax havens reveal company owners”

“…The shadow foreign minister Helen Goodman said the investigations had exposed the inadequacy of a system whereby beneficial ownership data was only accessible to regulators.

The foreign minister Alan Duncan, however, said the government would only pressure the territories to adopt new transparency measures when they became a global standard, and insisted that an EU commitment to introduce public registers did not meet that threshold.

Criticism was directed at Appleby, the offshore law firm at the heart of the Paradise Papers, for bringing legal action against the Guardian and the BBC over their reporting.

The shadow Treasury minister Anneliese Dodds criticised the government for failing to “defend publicly the journalists who were singled out by Appleby” and asked it to affirm that the reports were in the public interest.

Appleby has said a hacker had stolen its files and argued that none of the journalistic disclosures were in the public interest. It has demanded damages and asked the court to permanently ban both media organisations from using its leaked files to investigate its conduct or that of its clients.

Earlier this month the European parliament announced an inquiry into financial crime, tax evasion and tax avoidance, including measures to circumvent VAT on private jets facilitated by Appleby.”


“New financial watchdog is a tax avoider …”

“The man appointed to police Britain’s financial system yesterday admitted using a notorious scheme that helped cut tax bills.

Charles Randell was given the job despite admitting in his Treasury interview that he had been made to pay back £114,000 to the taxman, plus interest.

The scheme he used, Ingenious Film Partners 2, collapsed after an investigation by HMRC.

Grilled by MPs yesterday, the 59-year-old corporate lawyer accepted making a mistake.

Campaigners said Mr Randell’s appointment as the next chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority amounted to ‘self-policing by the financial elite’ – and should be blocked.

Nikki Turner, of the SME Alliance for bank fraud victims, said: ‘If you or I were to try to dodge our taxes for thousands of pounds, sorry wouldn’t be good enough.

‘We need somebody in the post who’s open to seriously trying to resolve the problems with the financial sector.’ Robert Palmer, of Tax Justice UK, added: ‘Charles Randell appears to be someone who is willing to play the system to make himself richer.

‘It can be really tough for someone like that to crack down on abusive banks. This is self-policing by the financial elite.’

The chairman of the FCA is one of the most senior figures in the City.
The role involves overseeing the staff of the regulator, which investigates bad behaviour by thousands of financial institutions, and ensures customers of big firms are treated fairly.

Mr Randell made his name at ‘magic circle’ law firm Slaughter and May as the Government’s top legal adviser on bank rescues during the financial crisis, reportedly earning fees of £500 an hour. It is thought his firm earned as much as £33million. ….”


“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. …”