Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Labour 'would hit tax-dodge firms'

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will say Labour is to target businesses that dodge tax by exploiting loopholes
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will say Labour is to target businesses that dodge tax by exploiting loopholes

Businesses that dodge tax by exploiting loopholes would be targeted under a blitz to make the system fairer planned by Labour, Ed Balls will announce.

The shadow Chancellor will look at forcing banks to tell the taxman when there is activity in the accounts of supposedly dormant companies and introduce annual dormancy checks to stop the system being used as a vehicle to avoid filing c orporate tax returns.

Chancellors and tax chiefs would face an annual grilling by the Treasury select committee on their attempts to tackle the tax gap - the difference between the amount owed to the Exchequer and the amount actually collected - and the public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, would be given extra powers to scrutinise tax reliefs that appear to be being abused.

The party will also launch a bid next week to close a loophole in the eurobond system that costs the UK an estimated £500m a year.

It comes after public outrage over the tax affairs of a number of international corporations, such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks, as well as criticism of HM Revenue and Customs over its so-called sweetheart deals with major companies which did not pay all the tax due.

Chancellor George Osborne has introduced a number of measures to clamp down on tax avoidance, including the use of overseas tax havens, but Labour claims vast sums are still going uncollected each year.

Mr Balls said: "At a time when working people are facing a cost-of-living crisis and the deficit is high, it's vital that everyone pays their fair share and we restore public trust in the tax system.

"High-profile cases of tax avoidance have undermined both public trust in company taxation and also hit businesses who play by the rules and pay their fair share.

"The next Labour government will act to tackle tax avoidance including by closing loopholes, increasing transparency and ensuring we have tougher independent scrutiny of the tax system.

"George Osborne is failing to tackle tax avoidance. The most recent figures from HMRC show that the amount of uncollected tax in our economy - the 'tax gap' - went up last year. This isn't good enough, so Labour will make reversing this trend and narrowing the tax gap a priority for HMRC."

Labour will table an amendment to the Finance Bill next week urging the government to act to stop companies using offshore stock exchanges to avoid tax through the "q uoted eurobond exemption".

It will set out plans for the longer term to increase transparency in the tax system by making firms clearly set out details of their ownership and how much they are paying in taxation.

The party also wants a push to fully involve de veloping countries in international efforts to tackle tax avoidance.

Mr Balls will publish details of the proposals, which come after a wide-ranging consultation with business and experts, on Monday.

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