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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Offshore trusts and the failure to publish tax returns

The most damning poll finding of the week has to be that of YouGov that 82 per cent of Britons, or five-in-six people, were not surprised by the revelations contained in the Panama Papers. Just 8% admitted surprise that rich people are using off-shore accounts to avoid tax.

The ‘Panama Papers’ have claimed that associates of Vladimir Putin are owners of $2bn held offshore; the President of UAE is behind a £1bn property empire in London; and that political leaders or their relatives in 40 other countries appear to have profited from offshore tax arrangements. And then we had the revelations about David Cameron's father and his own investment in that offshore company. It is a shame that the poll did not measure people's surprise or lack of it at the Prime Minister's involvement in this affair.

The Prime Minister has promised to publish his tax returns, but as the Independent reports, he has done this before and we are still waiting. The paper says that four years ago, David Cameron said that he was 'relaxed and happy' about publishing his tax returns. Everything then went quiet.

Now that he has admitted that he sold shares worth £30,000 in his father's offshore investment fund shortly before being elected Prime Minister in 2010 it becomes a bit more urgent that he publish his financial returns. This is especially so after the admission had to be virtually dragged from him, rather than him admitting it straight away.

Personally, I am in favour of much more transparency from Ministers on their own personal financial affairs. What that amounts to would have to be discussed but the case for change has been made by the Panama Papers/Cameron affair and we should not let the moment pass.
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