Crackdown on wealthy tax dodgers raises £500m

George OsborneA crackdown on wealthy tax dodgers has resulted in an extra £500 million flowing into the Treasury's coffers, George Osborne told MPs.

The Chancellor said the Government and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were committed to tackling tax avoidance schemes used by firms and rich individuals.
"Later this week we will be confirming that we have raised half a billion pounds in extra tax from high net worth individuals through our efforts through the HMRC," he told the Commons at Treasury question time.

The Chancellor said the £500 million boost was the result of a "better than expected performance" by the high net worth individuals unit. In total, efforts to close loopholes and tackle avoidance had resulted in £3 billion of extra tax revenue.

Mr Osborne said: "This coalition Government has dramatically increased pressure against those who avoid and evade their taxes. As a result of our efforts, tax revenues from our compliance and enforcement are £3 billion higher than when we came to office. We have tackled disguised remuneration, (we are) dealing with stamp duty enveloping and we are introducing a general anti-abuse rule."

Mr Osborne said under Labour the gap between what should have been collected and the sum that actually went to the Exchequer rose from £35 billion to £39 billion.

Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie warned against the use of retrospective tax measures such as those taken against Barclays following its use of an "aggressive" avoidance scheme. Mr Tyrie said: "The best way to prevent loss of revenue from avoidance schemes is to work much harder to create a simpler tax system in the beginning."

The Chancellor agreed that was the best approach "but inevitably in the tax code of a Western democracy there are going to be opportunities for abuse and avoidance which we need to deal with".

He added: "I think the House of Commons should only sanction retrospective taxation when it is very clear that the explicit wishes of Parliament have been abused and avoided."

Referring to "one particular UK bank", Mr Osborne said: "We did act retrospectively because that was in clear breach of what Parliament had expressed. "I'm very pleased to note that the new chief executive of that bank (Anthony Jenkins) has today said that his bank will be scaling down its tax structuring activities."

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Crackdown on wealthy tax dodgers raises £500m

Most recently HM Revenue & Customs let Vodafone off the hook - for quite a sum. Vodafone paid out just £1.25 billion despite an original tax bill being closer to £8 billion (HMRC has always refused to reveal how much it thought the Vodafone final bill was). The episode was made even more shaming and painful because Vodafone was given several years to come good with the cash owed - even though it was sitting on a substantial cash pile at the time.

The Exchequer is estimated to have lost around £10 million to Goldman Sachs recently through an 'error' made by HMRC. The episode relates to an employee benefit trust run by Goldman allowing employees to take non-repayable loans that had no National Insurance contributions tied to them. HMRC did claw back the full amount from more than 20 businesses - but not Goldman. HMRC remains cagey about the details of the deal. Little HMRC accountability or transparency.

Huge problems with QinetiQ, the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, or DERA. A lack of clarity on contractual arrangements at the outset didn't help, allowing private equity company Carlyle to hammer the price down (why would you start negotiations when you didn't know the company's true value?). The Ministry of Defence behaved, it was said, like "an innocent at a table of card-sharps". Estimated cost to the taxpayer - £90 million. Huge sums were later made by QinetiQ management when the company listed.

The TaxPayers' Alliances estimates £2.7bn worth of taxpayer cash was wasted with a super-expensive 'National Programme for IT in the NHS'. The Department of Health, in the end, had very little to show for it as a consequence. Another example of poor management and a seemingly ingrained inability to provide taxpayers' with value for money.

"BT is paid £9 million to implement systems at each NHS site, even though the same systems have been purchased for under £2 million by NHS organisations outside the Programme", the Commons Public Accounts Committee noted.

Contentious. The Office for National Statistics estimated this has declined 3.4% since 1997, "with inputs increasing by 38%." The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimate that this inefficiency costs the taxpayer £58.4 billion a year.

Given the above record, are there any deals that the taxpayer has actually won out on? Not many, but the one successful project was the roll out of new Jobcentre Plus offices. It came in £314 million under budget, claims the Taxpayers' Alliance. A small cheer.


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