Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Labour's relationship with tax avoidance

“The world is not run from where you think. Not from border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places you have never imagined.”- Hilary MantelWolf Hall

And twas ever thus. But today it’s not Antwerp and Florence but Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Today it’s not Henry Percy and the landed aristocracy the money men have by the balls, but the Labour Party.

In 2013-14 the Labour front bench accepted over £600,000 of research help from the multinational accountancy company PricewaterhouseCooper to help form policy on tax, business and welfare. Streatham MP and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna had research support from PwC between September 2013 and January 2014, and again between June and September this year, with a total value in excess of £60,000 - that’s more than double the average salary for his constituents.

‘So what?’ You may ask. 

Despite the rhetoric of Miliband’s crackdown on overseas ‘tax havens’ his party continues to be influenced at the highest echelons by firms like PwC where tax avoidance and is at the heart of their mission. 

According to a public accounts committee report published two weeks ago the top tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kevin Nicholson, misled MPs over complex Luxembourg financing structures the accountancy firm helped to set up for scores of multinationals to avoid tax.

These companies infiltrate the policy making process, help design the HMRC’s tax laws  and then advise their clients, individuals and big businesses, on how to avoid paying this tax. How else do companies such as Amazon, who, despite a UK turnover in the trillions contribute less than £10m to the treasury, get away with such fraud? 

UKUncut is leading the fight against tax avoidance in the UK, but with the ‘Big Four’ consultancy firms so firmly entrenched in the political process of the ‘traditional’ parties, without a change to the political system, there will be no change.

In what way is the multi-billionaire tax avoiding Topshop owner, Philip Green an appropriate man to advise the government on austerity. In a country where one missed appointment at the Job Centre can lead to benefit sanctions and DWP is targeting ‘benefit cheats’, blatant fraud is acceptable so long as you’re a millionaire or a multi-national company.

Is it any wonder that politicians continue to inflict drastic cuts to public services, the NHS and the welfare budget, cuts that disproportionately harm the poorest in society, while the richest in society receive tax breaks? 

When the party that is supposed to represent the workers is on the payroll of parasitic ‘big business’ there is a serious issue about the ability of these predatory firms to exert such an influence at the heart of politics. Is it any wonder that people are disillusioned with the political establishment?

The Green Party alone is not funded by big business. We rely on the generosity of the general public and individuals, who are passionate about our values, to make donations. Last year a £7,000 donation from one of country’s richest men was rejected because he is not a full UK taxpayer.

Only the Green Party is not in the pockets of profiteering capitalists; only the Green Party offers a real alternative; only the Green Party offers the chance to change!

No comments: