Panama Papers: PM launches Whitehall taskforce to probe tax evasion

11 Apr 16

The government has launched a cross-Whitehall taskforce to investigate 700 leads on possible tax evasion following the publication of leaked papers from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The taskforce, which was announced by David Cameron as he published his own tax returns, will be led by Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency. It will draw on investigators, compliance specialists and analysts from these agencies as well as the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Cameron announced £10m would be made available to ensure that the files, which have revealed possible examples of money laundering and tax evasion, are fully investigated.

An initial report will be made to chancellor George Osborne and home secretary Theresa May later this year.

“The UK has been at the forefront of international action to tackle the global scourge of aggressive tax avoidance and evasion, and international corruption more broadly,” Cameron said.

“There is clearly further to go and this taskforce will bring together the best of British expertise to deal with any wrongdoing relating to the Panama Papers.”
Cameron also published a summary and explanation of his tax affairs going back six years in an attempt to defuse a row about his late father's offshore fund, details of which were included in the Panama Papers leak. His return revealed that in 2014/15, the most recent year for which figures were available, Cameron paid £75,898 in income tax on a total taxable income of £200,307, including £140,522 salary as prime minister and a rental income of £46,899.

Setting out the government’s plan, financial secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said that everyone should pay their fair share of tax, just as the “honest majority” already does.

“No government has done more to make sure we crack down on tax evasion and aggressive avoidance, both here in the UK and internationally,” he stated.

“The new taskforce announced today will further tighten the screw on those who think they can get away with dodging tax that’s due in this country. It will also further enhance our ability to tackle financial crimes across the board, leaving no stone unturned. Our message is clear: there are no safe havens.”

It was also announced that the government would bring forward plans to introduce a criminal offence for corporations that fail to stop their staff facilitating tax evasion.

Ministers said the move will build on the government’s existing record in tackling tax evasion, and corruption more broadly, which include the development of the first central public registry of company beneficial ownership information in the G20, which will go live in June.

Responding to the announcement of the government taskforce, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said any inquiry must be fully independent and in public.

“Having this proposed task force reporting to the chancellor and home secretary, who are members of a political party whose donors are implicated, is a non-runner. The government’s inadequate plans will fail to win back the trust of the public,” he stated.

“Thousands of jobs have been cut at HMRC under this prime minister and last month’s budget revealed HMRC simply did not have the resources to collect the taxes we are owed. Anything short of a full independent public inquiry is unacceptable.”

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