Political rhetoric on tax avoidance is ‘disingenuous’
The escalating political rhetoric on tax avoidance matters has been branded ‘disingenuous’, by the boss of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations.
The comments from Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group, come as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today grilled Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive, amongst others, on the revelations about HSBC that were highlighted in BBC 1’s Panorama on Monday evening.
The issue of tax dodging also featured in PMQs in a clash between David Cameron and Ed Milliband.
Nigel said: “Like most people, I found the revelations that HSBC helped clients across the world evade tax to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds that were featured in this week’s Panorama deeply disturbing.
“The reports on this issue have highlighted the growing and serious global problem of tax evasion. Clearly, more must be done and tackled head on and with vigour.”
“However, the escalating political rhetoric surrounding this issue is largely unhelpful and detracts from the important conversation that is needed to combat tax evasion.
“As was pointed out in the PAC hearing today by HMRC, it can only recover money that is due and three quarters of the names that it was presented with did not owe money.
“Therefore, it can be reasonably assumed that these individuals were taking part in practices of tax avoidance, which is legal, and not tax evasion which is illegal.
“It seems somehow disingenuous of politicians to bemoan that HMRC is ‘not serving the British taxpayer’ on the issue of tax avoidance and/or tax evasion – politicians are the ones who have the power to reform the rules if they wish.
“It would appear that HMRC is simply playing the best hand it can with the rules established by politicians and with the tools and resources they have at their disposal.
“Action, not moral outrage by politicians, is required to deal with tax evasion.”
Nigel concluded: “Additionally, politicians should be urged to bear in mind the important difference between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion.”