The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 10th November 2017

Paradise for the few hell for the masses

by Daphne Liddle

ONCE again, the secret offshore treasure troves of the rich and powerful have been hitting the headlines following a massive new leak from the ‘Paradise Papers’, which astound even hardened cynics with the extent of the wealth that is hidden to avoid paying fair taxes.

It’s not even as though taxes in Britain were high — we have some of the lowest tax rates in the world as governments over the last three decades have cut taxes for the rich and for big corporations whilst shifting the burden of supporting the state and the dwindling services it provides on to those on low wages.

At the same, time cuts to the numbers of civil servants working for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) mean that the possibility of chasing up tax cheats has become a joke.

The Queen and Royal family are prominent amongst those avoiding taxes by salting vast sums away in offshore tax havens. They point out that what they are doing is not illegal. Therein lies the true nature of our class system. It should be illegal to avoid taxes but it is not, because our laws are made by and for the filthy rich.

It is an insult to all working-class taxpayers that the royals, who receive millions every year from taxes paid by people who are not wealthy, should think it acceptable to dodge their own taxes. They are truly biting the hands that feed them and laughing at the tide of poverty that is engulfing the lower paid in Britain.

As Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the House of Commons on Monday, every pound that the wealthy avoid paying in taxes is a pound taken away from our schools, our hospitals and from support to the poorest people in the country.

McDonnell has called for a “withholding tax” to ensure HMRC takes its share of company profits before firms move them to tax havens. He also said that the Government must push tax havens to come up with a full register of companies and trusts using them, allowing Britain better to pursue revenue.

He also issued a new call for a public inquiry into tax avoidance after the explosive leak of 13.4 million documents laid bare the financial affairs of the global elite, reportedly tying big companies and political figures to secretive overseas arrangements.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil service union PCS, said: “PCS has been arguing for many years that the issue of tax avoidance and evasion needs serious attention by Government. These [Paradise] papers again highlight the scale of the problem.

“With a tax gap of £120 billion made up of avoided, evaded and uncollected tax demonstrating the tax justice crisis the Government faces, it is staggering that HMRC staff numbers have halved in the past few years resulting in the loss of thousands of experienced tax inspectors across the country.

“One practical step the government could take is to immediately halt the HMRC office closure programme. To continue with these closures and the subsequent loss of more experienced staff would indicate they have no interest in tackling these vital issues. We urge the Government to halt the closure programme immediately.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Taxpayers will be furious at the efforts of the super-rich and their advisors, including the Queen’s, go to dodge paying their fair share of tax.

“These tax avoidance schemes may be legal, but there is deep anger and disgust about the ‘them and us’ attitude to paying tax revealed in the ‘Paradise Papers’.

“The Prime Minister’s refusal this morning to commit to introducing a public register of who owns offshore companies and trusts in British tax havens or to opening a public inquiry into tax avoidance is to be strongly deplored.

“Those struggling to put food on the table for their families and to pay their mortgages and rents are expected to pay every penny of tax on the dot, but there is a parallel financial universe for the global elite, using fancy accounting instruments and legal wheezes, to protect their mountains of cash from the taxman.”

At a time when thousands on benefits are facing at least six weeks with no money at all as they transfer to Universal Credit, forcing them into debt that could render them homeless, jobless and broken, it is a dangerous time for the filthy rich to be laughing at us as they dodge paying their taxes.