Friday, November 23, 2012

Shirley Williams questions Jersey's status as a tax haven

On Tuesday Shirley Williams asked a question in the Lords about the value of offshore accounts held by British citizens in the Channel Islands and the steps that are being taken to investigate them:
Jersey is one of the most secretive tax havens in the world. In a tax haven, neither corporate profits nor other profits of a corporate nature are taxed, nor are capital gains. Will he say whether there is any way in which those large, wealthy corporations which make their profits out of the UK consumer in this country can be persuaded or cajoled by HMRC into paying the taxes that they should? 
Secondly, can any steps be taken to prevent illegal profits - I am referring to those from, for example, fraud and theft ... - from being placed in secret accounts in a way that enables such people to escape international justice altogether?
In a sign of the strange times we live in, the minister replying was another Liberal Democrat, Dick Newby:
In respect of international corporations, the key thing is the extent to which we can extend international co-operation in that respect, which is why the recent announcement of the UK Chancellor and the German Finance Minister, following a G20 Finance Ministers' meeting in Mexico, was very important. 
We are now looking at concerted international co-operation to strengthen international tax standards. However, at the moment, it may mean that international companies can pay less tax than they would otherwise owe. We are trying to catch up with new forms of commerce and to make sure that tax is paid in proportion to where people are undertaking their business.
Lord Tunnicliffe also asked about Jersey:
My Lords, the Minister mentioned £19 billion that is tied up in Jersey related to UK citizens-a very precise figure. Does this mean that there is sufficient transparency, and that we have a sufficient viewing, of what is happening in Jersey? Do we have sufficient HMRC resources addressing that? And if the answer to both of those is yes, does he have a feel for the amount of money that the UK Exchequer could expect out of these people if we were better able to get hold of that money through agreement?
It is early days, but it looks as though people are beginning to question Jersey's deeply anomalous status as a Crown dependency whose policies disadvantage the huge majority of Her Majesty's subjects.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

Similar questions should be asked about Gibraltar (British Territory) and the Cayman Islands (British Overseas Territory).