Cameron calls for tax transparency

Updated: 
David Cameron has written to the leaders of Britain's offshore tax havens stressing the need to "get our own houses in order" as he pushes for international action to tackle avoidance schemes.

In a message to 10 crown dependencies and British overseas territories Mr Cameron said he backed their right to be low tax jurisdictions but insisted that rules needed to be set and enforced fairly.

The move comes ahead of next month's G8 summit in Northern Ireland, where Mr Cameron will push for an agreement aimed at clamping down on tax evasion and avoidance. He said he wanted the G8 to "knock down the walls of company secrecy" to reveal who really owns and controls firms.

Mr Cameron's initiative came as he prepared to raise the issue of corporate tax dodging with Google boss Eric Schmidt at a meeting in Downing Street.

The internet giant's executive chairman is a member of Mr Cameron's Business Advisory Group, which has its regular quarterly meeting, just days after Google was given a mauling by a House of Commons committee over its tax affairs.

The group holds its meetings behind closed doors and Downing Street does not reveal the content of its deliberations but a source inside Number 10 confirmed that tax will be up for discussion, insisting that ''nothing is off the table'' when Mr Cameron meets the group of 16 business leaders.

The Prime Minister's letter calling for more transparency about tax information and the ownership of companies was sent to leaders in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Mr Cameron wrote: "As you know, I have made fighting the scourge of tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a priority for the G8 Summit which the UK is hosting next month.

"With one month to go, this is the critical moment to get our own houses in order. I am looking to all the overseas territories and crown dependencies to continue to work in partnership with the UK in taking the lead on two critical issues: tax information exchange and beneficial ownership."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to write new rules to tackle corporate tax dodgers if he wins the next election, even if there is no international consensus for action. In an interview with the Observer he said Mr Cameron's Government was "dragging its feet" on the issue.

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