Friday, April 26, 2013

Cosy Relationship Hodge the Dodge Ignores

20130426-085348.jpg Some strong words from Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee as they release their report on tax avoidance today. Apparently the Big 4 accountancy firms have an “unhealthily cosy relationship with government”, saying it creates a “ridiculous conflict of interest”. Readers will know of Hodge’s great expertise in this area, given that she worked for one of them, Pricewaterhouse, before she became an MP. Not to mention that Hodge’s friends on the frontbench such as Chuka, Balls and Rachel Reeves have all had PwC analysts on their payroll. Guido can reveal that Labour’s Shadow Treasury ministers Chris Leslie and Cathy Jamieson also currently have PwC employees working in their offices. For some reason Hodge hasn’t said anything about this, you might say, cosy relationship, but then she has form for keeping quiet about awkward questions…

UPDATE: Hodge comes in at number 15 on the Times’ Politicians Rich List (£) this morning with a mere £18 million fortune largely tied up in the family Stemcor steel trading business. She told  Michael Crick “I am a tiny, tiny, tiny shareholder”, an 8-figure shareholding is hardly what Guido would call “tiny”. Her shareholding is via family trusts which have the advantage that they won’t be subject to inheritance tax. Cunning.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Tip-Off For the Guardian Investigations Team

Today’s Guardian splashes on millions of leaked emails revealing the “secrets of the super-rich” using offshore tax havens to hide vast sums of money from the Exchequer. One company was missing from the list: GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited, registered and still active on the Cayman Islands. The last time Guido asked the company’s owners, Guardian Media Group, for an explanation he was told their spokesperson was, er, abroad. When Guido asked Liz Forgan of the Scott Trust what was going on, she tried to blame it on Apax, GMG’s investment partner. Even Alan Rusbridger promised to look in to it, making a note of the company name on his phone.

Always one to help their journalists get to the bottom of the mystery, Guido suggests the Guardian’s investigations team take a look at the following:

  • If GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited holds no assets, why have its owners continued to pay registration fees since 2007 so it can remain an active company?
  • If it does hold assets what is the total present value of GMG and associated companies’ assets held via the Cayman Islands or other offshore tax havens?
  • Does GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited have “sham” nominee directors, if so, who are they?

If they could answer these questions, now that would be a great story…

Further reading on the Guardian’s tax hypocrisy:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

After Merkozy, Whatever Happened to Hollibande?

François Hollande is at an all-time low after the Socialist government’s “Monsieur Propre” (Mr Clean), Jérôme Cahuzac, admitted to having a “bank account abroad” for the past two decades. The former budget minister with responsibility for cracking down on tax dodgers admitted to holding €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account at UBS Switzerland. Hollande is now facing questions about exactly what he knew and when. Scandals are arguably the least of Hollande’s worries. His flagship 75% top rate of tax has been ruled unconstitutional, wealth creators and film stars alike are fleeing his tax tyranny. This week his new supertax on companies has been shunned by business leaders, and even the left-wing press are abandoning him. As unemployment hits a 16-year high, Hollande’s approval rating is at a record low for any leader so early into his mandate. France is suffering from the disastrous consequences of electing the socialist president.

Where is Ed Miliband in all this? Last summer Ed was welcomed onto the steps of the Elysee Palace by his new best friend, declaring:

“What President Hollande is seeking to do in France and what he is seeking to do in leading the debate in Europe is find that different way forward. We are in agreement in seeking that new way that needs to be found and I think can be found.”

As is plain for all to see, Hollande’s “different way forward” is dragging his country to her knees. Even Ed knows this, notice how he doesn’t seem to talk about his old pal François so much any more? France should serve as a warning to us all of what would happen under Monsieur Millibande…

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Labour Advocate Tax Avoidance

Nottingham’s Labour council have found an especially underhand way of getting council tenants out of paying the bedroom tax: encouraging tenants to redefine two-bedroom flats as having one-bedroom. If Labour are standing by their line that the spare room subsidy is a tax, then surely using a loophole in the rules to get out of paying it is tax avoidance? Either they admit they are lying to voters, or they admit they are advocating tax avoidance. What’s it going to be?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WATCH: Huffington Post Release Video on How They Dodge Tax

This video produced by HuffPo “Comedy” last year reveals all on “the perfect tax minimisation scheme”, utilising a “dedicated team of conscience-free accountants who each year loving nurture a crop of elegant tax returns on our behalf”. They would know… what with being based in Luxembourg in order to dodge tax.

H/T @ontablets

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Campaign Piles Booze Pressure on Osborne

With his precious AAA credit rating lost, three weeks until the budget Osborne could probably do with a drink. This morning the Taxpayers’ Alliance have launched a new campaign to freeze beer duty. Pubs up and down the country will play host to hundreds of thousands of beer mats telling punters just how much of what they pay for their pint goes to the taxman. Something Guido imagines the Chancellor will hardly appreciate. You can add your opposition to Osborne’s beer tax here

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hodge the Dodge: Named and Shamed

hodgeTax dodgers need to be “named and shamed” by HMRC says the Public Accounts Committee chaired by Margaret Hodge. “We’ve got to simplify our tax system and I think naming and shaming not just of the sort-of Jimmy Carrs, but of these providers, these whizz kids, so that we know who they are, is powerful“. Her Committee reports that there is a  “game of cat and mouse and HMRC is losing”.

Well some fat cats put their shareholdings in family trusts to avoid inheritance taxes. Fat cats like Margaret Hodge…

The company share register for Stemcor shows that Hodge holds several million pounds worth of shareholdings in trusts, including for members of her family. Her family’s firm Stemcor confirmed that she has “shares held in trust or in her children’s names”. As Polly Toynbee helpfully explained, this is a clever way of minimising future inheritance tax liability:

“The big sell is trusts, special ones devised for this company’s clients, guaranteed to protect almost all your wealth from inheritance tax. They are right, it can be done easily. Put all moveables and all cash and investments into a discretionary trust, and it passes to your heirs without tax as soon as you die, not even waiting for probate. It counts as a gift so the beneficiaries need pay no tax either.”

Guido has challenged Hodge repeatedly over the last few months to explain the purpose of placing her Stemcor shareholdings in a trust other than to reduce the future inheritance tax liability of her relatives. She has yet to reply – what a shame…

See also: Hodge the Dodge Hypocrisy in Full

Thursday, February 14, 2013

When Ed Defended Gordon’s 10p Tax Disaster

What a difference a few years makes. Here is Ed Miliband in 2008, defending Gordon Brown’s abolition of the 10p tax rate:

“When you make a big set of changes in the tax system, some people do lose out. That is a matter of regret. Of course it is. But overall these changes make the tax system fairer.”

In 2008 he agreed it was fair, now Ed and Ed are landing their old boss in it. “Gordon Brown was wrong”…

Miliband Bounced Into Speech Policy U-Turn
“We would put right a mistake made by Gordon Brown”

The PM pulled the win back at a yesterday’s PMQs by running with Guido’s leaked email from Labour insiders who had been told there would be no policy announcement in today’s speech. Fast forward 24 hours and they’ve pulled one out of the hat. After the PM hinted that the 10p tax band would return, Miliband will shortly announce that Labour will reintroduce the rate scrapped by Gordon, funded by the LibDem policy of  a mansion tax on houses over £2 million. Funny that…

What we do know is as of Tuesday the Labour line was that there was no policy:

“Ed Miliband is going to make a ‘major’ speech on the economy on Thursday. It won’t have any new policies in it, but the plan is for Labour to release two or three big economic policies over the next couple of months.”

That was briefed out to supporters attending the speech, and now magically there is one. One that was suggested by a backbench Tory MP and does not look very well costed:

https://twitter.com/PickardJE/status/302009465518030849

Did the Eds work this one out on the back of their Valentine’s Day card envelopes?

UPDATE: Quoting a “key advisor” as late as yesterday evening, the line to Labour supporting sites was still that there would be no major policy announcement in today’s speech:

“But I fear most people will ignore it. This is partly because it will not contain major policy announcements to fight an election on. Their reasoning for this is simple: the election is still two years away and no one can predict the state of the economy then. Without knowing that, it is difficult to set budgets and make spending plans.”

With language like “we are taking a shot at the paradigm of the past”, there is no prize for guessing who that “key advisor” was…

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WATCH: Broken Tory Promises

An absolutely damning assessment of Dave and George’s broken promises from the Taxpayers’ Alliance this morning. “No plans to increase VAT”, VAT increased to 20%. “The next Conservative government will increase the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million”, inheritance tax limit frozen. What ever happened to the Conservatives?


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