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A fair taxation policy - my response to letters from constituents via 38 degrees

March 17, 2015 3:22 PM
By George Cunningham in A fair taxation policy - my response to a letter from a constituent viw 38 degrees

TAX DODGING

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for writing to me on a subject which goes to the heart of the Liberal Democrats' central campaign for Britain to have a stronger economy which does not neglect the need to work towards a fairer society.

I want a tax system that is simple, competitive and fair. The vast majority of people and businesses in the UK pay their taxes on time and in full, but there are always some who try to get away without paying their fair share. This is morally wrong and damages our economy and public finances.

Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has made tackling tax avoidance a top priority and has made progress on many of the issues you raise. Since coming into Government in 2010 he has led a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion that is closing loopholes and making more people pay up. It has also specifically taken action to get back money lost in Swiss bank accounts.

The government has systematically worked through the 2010 'Lagarde' list of tax avoiders and brought in more than £135 million, increasing the maximum penalty for hiding money in tax havens to 200 per cent of the tax evaded.

Over 90 countries last year signed up to new set of international reporting standards, further shutting down the options for tax cheats who pursue the increasingly high risk practice that we are making for them. To date, our agreements with Switzerland and Liechtenstein alone have brought in around £2 billion in previously unpaid tax.

The government believes in low taxes and taxes that are paid. That is why we are dealing with the minority who try to avoid the taxes they owe as part a stronger economy and fairer society and working towards a tax system that is on the side of those who work hard and play by the rules.

Thanks to the steps we have taken, the tax yield for this year will be around £9bn more than when we formed the coalition Government in 2010.

Like you, I was shocked to hear media reports claiming that HSBC helped thousands of wealthy clients avoid tax from countries all over the world.

However, since 2010, the Government has closed many of the loopholes exposed in the report and specifically taken action to get back money lost in Swiss bank accounts.

HMRC has systematically worked through all the HSBC data that it has received and has brought in more than £135m in tax, interest and penalties from tax evaders who hid assets in Swiss HSBC accounts.

HMRC received information on HSBC under very strict conditions and has therefore been unable to seek prosecution for other potential offences, such as money laundering. However, French authorities have said they will provide all necessary assistance to allow HMRC to exploit the data it already has to the full.

Going forward, Liberal Democrats are determined not to let up in the fight against tax cheats. If we are in Government again our aim is to make further progress on this.

I hope you will support this essential work by voting for us at the next General Election.

Best regards.

George Cunningham, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North Thanet constituency