Peer pushes for tax returns to be public

Updated: 
Jimmy CarrEvery tax return should be made public in an attempt to prevent people avoiding paying their fair share, a Labour peer has said.

Lord Dubs made his call as the Government came under pressure to reveal more details of the tax avoidance scheme used by comedian Jimmy Carr.

Mr Carr is reported to have used an aggressive - but legal - strategy to channel cash through Jersey-based company K2, allowing him to pay income tax at rates as low as 1%.

At question time in the House of Lords, Labour's Lord Clinton-Davis said "thousands of extremely rich people" were "engaged in tax avoidance schemes" and called for an all-party committee to look into the "atrocious situation".

And Lord Dubs asked Treasury minister Lord Sassoon: "Wouldn't it be helpful if all tax returns were in the public domain?"

Labour Treasury spokesman Lord Davies of Oldham said legislation passed in 2004 meant that accountants had to submit to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) "any scheme that leads to tax avoidance".

He demanded: "Was this implemented in the famous case of Jimmy Carr? Did his accountant inform HMRC? If so, what was done about it and if they hadn't, when is the Government going to act?"

Lord Sassoon said Lord Dubs' suggestion was "too radical".

And he told Lord Davies: "Individual taxpayer confidentiality is something that is very important and the prime reason we are not going to see individual tax returns published and I am not going to comment on any particular case. That particular case has had a lot of airing in the last couple of weeks."

He told peers the Government was consulting on a "general anti-abuse rule" and attempting to ensure that more schemes, which lead to an estimated £5 billion of tax avoidance a year, were closed down.

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