Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Howitzers on Liechtenstein spiked

Recently we blogged (here, with update here) on the tax co-operation agreement between the United Kingdom and Liechtenstein, finding some good parts, but with some fundamental, even fatal, flaws.

Britain's exceedingly well informed (subscription-only) magazine Private Eye has now added its voice.

British tax dodgers using Liechtenstein banks will have to come clean, and in return they get

"a cushy deal on their tax bill, with penalties limited to 10 percent, as opposed to the maximum 100 percent and/or a spell at Her Majesty's Pleasure" (which, to non-British people, means prison.)

Given that just a few months ago HMRC's (that is, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) tax boss Dave Hartnett told a Panorama programme that he had "smoking guns: smoking tanks, smoking howitzers" on the Liechtenstein dodgers -- including household names -- this is quite a comedown, ruling out the powerful deterrent to tax evasion of seeing a well-known suit taken down the steps (a fate that often befals tax credit and benefit fiddlers.)"

Once again, as Private Eye points out, Britain emphasises one rule for the wealthy, and another for the rest of us. The article also notes that Stephen Timms, UK Treasury Minister actually endorsed Liechtenstein's facilitators of criminality, er, banks.

If you buy a copy of Private Eye you will also find out (p30) what happened when one member of parliament asked the National Audit Office to investigate how Lord Rothermere, who owns a media empire including Britain's popular Daily Mail via offshore companies and trusts, has managed to claim being domiciled in France for tax purposes.


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