Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guardian letter: reclaim the culture of upright taxpaying

The Guardian is carrying a letter today co-signed by John Christensen, director and founder of TJN; Richard Murphy, Senior Adviser to TJN, and Nicholas Shaxson, TJN writer and author of the bestselling Treasure Islands. Here is the letter, entitled Tax avoidance must become taboo:

The public accounts committee's report into HMRC's tax settlements made for compelling reading (Revenue hid 'sweetheart' tax deals for big business, MPs say, 20 December). But more fascinating was the feeble response by HMRC and the striking lack of response from either Vodafone or Goldman Sachs.

Gone are the days when HMRC and Vodafone would come together as an unstoppable dream team proffering denials of tax avoidance as an "urban myth". Now, we see HMRC weakly saying the committee is misinformed and is basing its conclusions on partial information. We know that the committee did everything in its power to get to the truth, but HMRC obstructed the inquiry by using the veil of secrecy that is taxpayer confidentiality.

It is imperative that the UK's political and business culture changes so that rich individuals and corporations treat tax avoidance as taboo. It is also crucial that the culture at HMRC changes so that it clamps down on tax avoidance. If this were the norm, the UK could raise sufficient income to protect the services currently under threat from cuts, set an international standard for tax justice, and make progress towards achieving equality in the UK and around the world.

So while we support the efforts of the public accounts committee, we also support the action by UK Uncut Legal Action to challenge HMRC in the high court so that the decision to let Goldman Sachs off its unpaid tax is declared unlawful and the £20m is given back to the taxpayer. It is undeniably in the public interest that this case should go through the courts in order to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness.

Katy Clark MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Caroline Lucas MP Jonathan Edwards MP, Diane Abbott MP, Paul Kenny GMB, Mark Serwotka PCS, Christine Blower National Union of Teachers, Len McCluskey Unite, Nicholas Shaxson author of Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World, Richard Murphy, Tax Research, Clifford Singer False Economy, Neal Lawson Compass, Greg Muttitt War on Want, John Christensen Tax Justice Network


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