monday, 11 april of 2016

Cameron pushes for criminal sanctions over tax evasion

The prime minister will tell MPs that he is pressing ahead with the new law in spite of opposition from some banks, law firms and accountants, which claim it would put the UK finance sector at a disadvantage.

The government wants to put pressure on companies with “inadequate supervisory mechanisms” to spot rogue employees as well as the minority of businesses that deliberately encourage evasion.

But Mr Cameron will face a tough time in the Commons, as MPs return from their Easter break to debate for the first time the fallout of last week’s leak of the so-called Panama Papers.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, will seek to press home his case that the prime minister’s offshore dealings with Blairmore, a fund set up by his late father Ian Cameron, need further explaining and show that he is out of touch.

Mr Cameron, who has admitted mishandling the affair, tried on Sunday to display his commitment to transparency by publishing his tax returns.

But the move, the first for a prime minister, raised fears in Westminster that Mr Cameron had set a precedent that could be forced on all MPs.

After Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, published her tax return, Downing Street insisted that Mr Cameron thought it was only necessary for “the prime minister and leader of the opposition to publish their returns”.

On Monday morning Downing Street said that George Osborne would publish his tax returns. A spokesperson said: “The prime minister takes the view that chencellors and shadow chancellors should show transparency.”

Earlier a Treasury source said: “We have been clear that the chancellor has never had any offshore shareholdings or other interests.

“His income and interests are straightforward and declared publicly: his salary, rental income from a property in London and a shareholding in his father’s firm, Osborne and Little. He is always happy to consider ways to ‎offer even more transparency.”

Mr Corbyn, who has promised to publish his tax return, suggested that others in public life should follow suit.

Mr Osborne’s ally Amber Rudd, energy secretary, spoke for the disquiet felt by some MPs about the rising pressure to be transparent on tax when she said: “I wouldn’t be offended by it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the right way to go.”

(Published by Financial Times - April 11, 2016)

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