Parking emotions to one side, companies percentage of total government tax income has been relentlessly trending down in every major economy for over 50 years. Given the size of savings needed to support the illusion of austerity to the bond markets (but don’t look too closely at booming public sector debt levels), the content of this weeks Panorama was sold heavily as a “look everyone, large amounts of money squirrelled away by the rich here”. Sounded like an interesting perspective, so I recorded it on iPlayer and watched it on the 40 minute train journey into London this morning.
Unfortunately, largely content free. You could summarise it as:
- A Whistleblower in an HSBC facility in Switzerland leaked account details of many people holding large amounts of money in accounts there
- Many people ended up coughing up extra tax money to HMRC as a result of the data leak
- the bank gave advice to wealthy clients to lower their tax bills through schemes designed expressly for this purpose
- Bank says they’ve reformed such practices
- another Whistleblower says in her experience, they have not
- Director at the centre of managing HSBC at the time was ennobled and hired as an advisor to David Cameron
- more could be done (lots of see saws between the words “Avoidance” and “Evasion”)
- err, I think that’s it
It then got surreal when the politician interviewed was one widely known as one whose £1.8m trust fund is fed from her fathers company that pays an effective tax rate of 3%.
So, the pursuit of a journalist who could do a thorough job and come out with some compelling (and actionable) story here remains unfulfilled. In the meantime, a few people are watching my question on Quora for which I can find no answer:
What benefits accrue to the UK by permitting large amounts of money to be held offshore in British Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories?
Any ideas? I sometimes wish I could get John Lanchester (one writer who is thorough and funny too) to have a crack at answering that.