Emma Lewell-Buck MP: We must be tough on the tax dodgers

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Tax avoidance has cost the nation around £13 billion between 2010 and 2015. Just imagine what this huge sum of money could have been spent on.

Since 2010 the total amount could have paid for a new school to be built every single day of the year or at a time when hospitals are struggling to secure their future including our very own hospital here in Shields, the money could have paid for 21 new hospitals. Tax avoidance costs us all. By allowing the super-wealthy tax dodgers to operate unfettered the Tories have ensured that billions of pounds, dollars and euros have been lost from our public finances.

When David Cameron was in office he promised to crack down on offshore tax evasion, while his father was benefitting from an offshore trust. When the Panama papers scandal eventually broke the then Prime Minister was forced to admit that he owned shares in the tax haven fund, which he sold for tens of thousands of pounds just before becoming Prime Minister in 2010. Any talk of closing offshore tax loopholes has completely disappeared from the last Tory manifesto and the subject of tax avoidance in general has been watered down.

After years of Tory inaction and failure to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, Government proposals purporting to close tax loopholes in the upcoming Finance Bill do not go far enough - having gaping omissions and even risk creating more loopholes.

Despite Tory rhetoric about proposals to address non doms, the Government has actually gone out of their way to preserve the non-dom status of off-shore trusts and increase tax give-aways for non doms. Meanwhile, HMRC lacks the necessary resources and capacity - and yet there are even more cuts on the horizon.

Wealth hidden in tax havens worldwide is estimated at £13,000bn. Even a fraction of this amount paid as the fair taxes that are due would end austerity. In addition, the tax gap in the UK is not only estimated to be at least £36 billion, but that these HMRC tax avoidance figures are grossly underestimated - a view shared by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others.

The people of Shields need a real commitment from Government to an overarching strategy that provides genuine legal teeth to tackle the millionaire tax dodgers and the advisers surrounding them.

I was proud to stand on a manifesto that promised to tackle tax evasion head on and clamp down on tax havens. A manifesto that pledged to put an end to the era of government turning a blind eye to the scandal of tax avoidance and work in partnership with leading tax experts to root it out. Labour’s proposed Tax Transparency and Enforcement Programme will be the most comprehensive effort ever made by any UK government to end the social scourge of tax avoidance and ensure that those super-rich individuals and minority of giant corporations seeking to duck their responsibilities to society will pay their fair share.

The Labour Party is serious about standing up for tax payers and tackling tax avoidance, we will be tough on tax dodgers and tough on the havens of tax dodgers.