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Panama Papers: UK government must stop abuse of the tax system

Published 06/04/2016

British Prime Minister David Cameron's father Ian was among the hundreds of individuals named in the the so-called Panama Papers leak of confidential documents. HMRC could not confirm whether or not the affairs of Blairmore Holdings would be investigated
British Prime Minister David Cameron's father Ian was among the hundreds of individuals named in the the so-called Panama Papers leak of confidential documents. HMRC could not confirm whether or not the affairs of Blairmore Holdings would be investigated

THE International Consortium of Investigative Journalists - a global network of reporters which broke the LuxLeaks story in 2014 and SwissLeaks last year - recently published the Panama Papers, leaked details of financial arrangements that allow wealthy individuals around the world to avoid paying tax.

This expose offers a rare glimpse into the murky practices of tax-dodging - and the sheer size and scale revealed is staggering. It shines a light on a toxic global tax system exploited by professional enablers on behalf of those rich enough to hire them. It is the wealthiest, who in a progressive tax system should be paying the most in tax, who have the biggest incentives to exploit this weak architecture to avoid paying their fair share.

It will be argued that tax-avoidance is permissible, because practices fall within the law. But legal loopholes abuse a broken system and everyone has a responsibility to contribute towards the public services and infrastructure on which we all rely.

This is a colossal betrayal of the majority of people - the taxpayers making up the shortfall left by those who can most afford to pay it but don't and the most vulnerable who can't access quality public services as a result.

As long as tax-dodging continues to drain government coffers, there is a human cost with less to spend on vital public services and the resources needed to tackle poverty, put children in school and prevent citizens dying from lack of healthcare.

Oxfam Ireland's Even it Up campaign highlights the growing gap between rich and poor and identifies tax-dodging as a key contributing factor to inequality.

It is calling on governments the world over to crack down on the loopholes that allow wealthy individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share and to introduce greater transparency of tax arrangements.

The UK is in a unique position to help clean up the murky world of tax havens - starting by ensuring that the real beneficiaries of shell companies registered in the UK's Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, such as the British Virgin Islands, are revealed ahead of May's Anti-Corruption Summit in London.

JIM CLARKEN

Chief executive, Oxfam Ireland

Belfast Telegraph

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