UK Politics, World Politics

Panama Papers: Britain has the power to halt underhand tax havens

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It may be the biggest journalistic jackpot of the decade, but the discovery of the Panama Papers should provoke changes to our societies spanning even longer timescales. Over 11.5m files leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists amongst myriad other media stations have clarified stark truths of our split societies. Britain, Iceland, Russia and China, alongside more neighbouring countries have had their tycoons, politicians and oligarchs exposed in relation to such unjust tax evasion.

The tax malpractice revelations of Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca and its clients reveals a deep hypocrisy at the top of our society. The setting up of false companies in order to evade income tax is sanctimonious, and the frequent investment of millions in illegal markets is perilous to the international community. This cycle of shady financing has only aided those with links to some of the most hazardous operations in the world, including the funding of organisations linked to North Korea’s questionable nuclear programme.

If anything, the Panama Papers prove that our society is far from just. David Cameron has commanded many of Britain’s poorest to suffer the effects of devastating austerity whilst the most wealthy have continued to inappropriately satisfy their greedy financial appetites. It is unscrupulous that the Prime Minister has advocated for such widespread working class cuts, whilst his relations, Tory party donors, and numerous high earners continue to dodge income levies. In a modern society, the existence of one rule for the rich and another for the ordinary citizen is shameful.

Not only these ravenous Brits who must be flagged up for their blatant wrongdoing. Colleagues of international figures including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and members of the formidable Chinese politburo have, in past days, had their dignity laid before them. Even Iceland’s Prime Minister Davíð Gunnlaugsson is now facing popular calls for his resignation after exposure of he and his wife’s offshore earnings. The intriguing Scandinavian nation boasts one of the best equality ratings in the world, but it is clear that some public officials must still be rebuked. Whilst not all of the aforementioned politicians have themselves taken part in tax dodging, knowledge of such underhand tactics is nothing short of negligence.

It seems that the global leaders who are launching crackdowns on corruption within their home nations just cannot help themselves. Such a gap between the people and their leaders should not exist in the 21st century. The modern class divide goes beyond occupational status or a mere tax band rating. Our elites should not be torn in such an abominable conflict of interests regarding their scheming and shady financial agenda. A select few international politicians evidently seek to strengthen the pockets of only those amongst their own social class, and not the pockets of majority. So who can citizens trust, watching on as their leaders are embroiled in such unforgiveable hypocrisy? Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these revelations is that our rule of law continues to be diminished. The lawmakers are heavy-handedly exploiting the system and continue to prevent the tying of profound excise loopholes. Our politicians are no longer standing up for the hardworking people, small businesses and social justice they once appeared to.

Such striking kleptocracy is alive and well within our global society. It is now time for the true leaders to put an end to this unfair exploitation. In fact, Britain could very possibly stand the moral high ground. With myriad shell companies having been set up in British colonies, the UK has a bright light to shed on operations within such tax havens. Soon, the Cayman Islands, Panama and the British Virgin Islands could become subject to hard-line reprimands. Only with strong support from Britain may principles of income equality and fairness be reinstated with regard to tax contributions worldwide.

There is one answer to this very real issue. Britain has the chance to assume a leading role in the condemnation of exploitative individuals and the abolishment of such unfair loopholes. Without this support, political corruption and large scale deprivation amongst humanity will prevail. Let’s see our politicians advocate for real social justice and the prevention of big business and the most affluent taking such astonishing advantages. Cameron’s blaming of the widespread use of these schemes on HMRC laxity is a puny scapegoat.

Perhaps I am just a pessimist, but Sunday’s landmark leakage has shown us the disgraceful deceit and dishonesty which is abundant throughout society. It has once again reiterated the evils which continue to prevent our global community from progressing towards equality, justice and prosperity.

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Business, UK Politics

Businesses mustn’t get too big for their boots when it comes to tax

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Google, Amazon, Vodafone and Apple are just a few of the multinationals which have made the headlines in recent months, but not only because of the revolutionary products and services upon which so many of us rely.

Over the past few months, the aforementioned companies, amongst many others, have received stark warnings over heinous tax avoidance schemes. Towards the end of December, it was revealed that Apple owes at least €880m in tax to the Italian government. Only in the same month had a startling report been published detailing over 500 corporations who had not paid their fair share in Australia, and this month it has come to light that Google has failed to pay anywhere near its 20% corporation tax. It seems that there will be no end to the corporation tax saga anytime soon.

Whilst our government takes away support for those whom day-to-day struggles for necessities is a reality, we should in fact be turning our attention to the activities of big business.

Many of the most prominent household name brands are simply not punished enough for this staggering wrongdoing. The extent of tax exploitation indeed involves only the very few, but the extent of the problem is far-reaching. In actual fact, Google has only had to pay back £130m in taxes, a mere fraction of their dues which have spanned the past decade. Further to this, Apple paid back to Italian authorities only €318m to ‘settle’ the dispute, a fee which again does not amount to full payment. Here, there is a fundamental flaw. The point of this repayment should not be to ‘settle’ any arguments. Companies should have to pay back their full debts in order to feel some real pressure and eradicate such fiendish tactics.

One thing is clear. Tax avoidance is eroding our society’s core economic values and our precious rule of law. Hard punishment for culprit companies must become real. In this era of capitalism, which has albeit seen a sparkling global economy, the organisations with a monopoly have an increasingly strong hold over political and economic agenda of our nation. Once one company takes advantage of the system, the rest will follow. The Conservative leadership is evidently failing to attack the underhand game plan of some companies, a government strategy which is punishing the poor and rewarding the deceit of the wealthy.

Without the contributions of organisations at the centre of our society, development of our nationwide economy will become slow and arduous. Multinational companies must give something back in order to support the small businesses which may one day grow to follow in their footsteps.

The European Union’s plans to finitely control tax payments from businesses in the light of these revelations is thus reassuring. Chancellor George Osborne must indeed keep businesses on his side but regulate them strongly, in the same way that the ordinary citizen is kept in line. Britain’s tax body, HMRC, must become more transparent and accountable to the public, making sure that all contribute their fair share.

A market economy like that of the United Kingdom can be hugely successful, but the recent tax scandals have proven that a degree of real state regulation is paramount. Britain’s monetary future must have fairness in its roots, a concept which must further become the spirit of our large businesses.

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