SNP Overriding Devolution Settlement to Impose Westminster Policy

It isn’t just the hypocrisy of Margaret Hodge that has been exposed by her attempt to force public ownership registers on UK overseas territories. The SNP are backing her amendment to override the devolution settlement of another territory and impose this “colonialist” policy from Westminster. At the same time as opposing the EU Withdrawal Bill on the grounds that Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit. Seems the Nats’ commitment to devolution stops at the coast of the UK…

British Virgin Islands Accuse Hypocritical Hodge of “Colonialism”

Tax hypocrite Margaret Hodge took a kicking from Lorna Smith of British Virgin Islands Finance on the Today programme this morning, who accused the Labour grandee of “colonialism” for attempting to force them to introduce public ownership registers. Hodge’s amendment, backed by Corbyn, is in the Commons today. Well worth a listen to hear Hodge skewered…

As Guido has chronicled, Hodge had a £1.5 million shareholding in 0.01% tax rate-paying Stemcor. 96,000 Stemcor shares awarded to Hodge in 2011 came from the tax haven of Lichtenstein. Now she is attempting to enforce “colonialist” tax avoidance measures on the British Virgin Islands. You don’t get more hypocritical than that…

Labour Spent Hundreds of Thousands With Google, Amazon and Daily Mail Group

Corbyn and McDonnell have repeatedly singled out Google and Amazon as tax-avoiding baddies and vowed to get “aggressive” with them… turns out aggressive means Labour paying Google Ireland Limited £250,000 and US-based Amazon Web Services £22,000 during the general election.

Labour also gave Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, £12,000 for advertising during the campaign. The Corbynista ‘Stop Funding Hate’ cranks not so loud about that one…

Jolyon’s Failed Vanity Cases Cost Crowdfunders £350,000

Britain’s most insufferable lawyer Jolyon Maugham is taking a break from Twitter today and going to court in his latest attempt to stop Brexit. Maugham will petition for a judicial review against the Electoral Commission, arguing the regulator failed to investigate Vote Leave-BeLeave campaign donations. The Electoral Commission has already investigated the donations twice…

Speaking of donations, rather than putting his stupendous QC’s income where his mouth is – and, indeed, despite being a lawyer himself – Jolyon is using other people’s cash to fund the legal bid. He’s crowdfunded nearly £50,000. What can his donors expect for their cash?

Not much, if his form is anything to go by. In May 2017, Maugham went to the High Court of Ireland in an attempt to reverse the Brexit vote after Article 50 was triggered. The case was opposed by the Irish government and was struck out by Mr Justice Peter Kelly. More than £70,000 was crowdfunded…

Then, in February 2018, Maugham was involved in a similar case in the Scottish courts. Lord Doherty of the Scottish Court of Session ruled:

“I am mindful that demonstrating a real prospect of success is a low hurdle for an applicant to overcome. However, I am satisfied that that hurdle has not been surmounted. Indeed, in my opinion the application’s prospect of success falls very far short of being a real prospect…” 

A gentle judical admonishing of Jolyon’s grasp on reality. Crowdfunding for this failed case raised over £60,000…

As Guido reported, Maugham also tried to judical review David Davis over the Brexit sector analysis papers. Mr Justice Supperstone rejected permission, finding a simple (and free) FoI request was a suitable alternative. That failed judicial review was also crowdfunded: £59,275. When he loses, do people get their money back? “Any surplus funds will be held for the costs of other litigation”…

Jolyon, a specialist tax barrister, sued Uber to demand a 56p VAT receipt. When Guido says he sued we mean he suckered £107,650 from crowdfunders and cabbies to back this case. Vaingloriously making the claim in his own name he suspended the action when he realised that if he lost the case – a very real possibility given his less than stunning record – Uber would seek to recover their costs from him personally. Unwilling to put his own money where his suckers crowdfunders did, he pathetically said he was looking for an alternative claimant who didn’t have any material assets to take the risk. Not exactly brave leadership…Hapless Jolyon Maugham has therefore spent over a third of a million pounds (£350,000) of other people’s money vainly pursuing his agenda, entirely without success. All he has got for the money is gout. The crowd that backs him can afford to take the pain…

Labour Vote Against Stamp Duty Cut They Backed In Manifesto

Labour MPs have voted against the proposed cut in stamp duty, despite backing it in their manifesto just six months ago. Overall, 228 Labour MPs voted against the second reading of the Finance Bill which includes the tax cut first outlined in the Budget. Shadow Treasury minister Jonathan Reynolds admitted this “was a Labour policy included in our manifesto for the June 2017 general election”, yet Labour MPs queued up to oppose the tax cut: Alison McGovern said “it is simply the wrong policy priority’”, Grahame Morris whinged:legitimate concerns have been expressed about the stamp duty proposals, which are feared to be the wrong solution”. And Stella Creasy said the stamp duty cut would: “do little for [her] constituents.” Student fees, stamp duty – is there anything Labour told voters at the election that still stands?

Tax Cuts in the Budget

Guido spotted a few welcome if modest tax cuts in the budget:

  • Stamp Duty cut worth up to £5,000 to first time buyers
  • Personal allowance will rise to £11,850 tax free
  • The higher rate threshold will rise to £46,350*
  • Tax break for transfers of North Sea oil and gas fields
  • Increase in the business R & D tax credit to 12%

A couple of freezes:

  • Fuel duty frozen again this year
  • Froze air passenger duty
  • Beer duty frozen
  • No new tax levies for renewables until 2025 at least

*Given the Scottish higher rate of tax kicks in at £43,000 canny Scots who file their tax returns in England will save themselves a few quid.

Have co-conspirators spotted any more cuts?

Momentum Plot to Treble Council Tax For 15,000 Households in Bristol

What does Corbynism mean in reality? Momentum supporters on Bristol council are plotting to treble council tax for over 15,000 households. The Bristol Post reports the Labour council there has a projected deficit of £108 million, and Momentum’s plan to balance the books is a 200% council tax rise for the most valuable 8% of properties. The remaining 92% of households would see an inflation-busting council tax increase of up to 5%.

Guido is told that this would be illegal under local government finance rules. With the return of loony lefty councils you can be sure of one thing: “Vote Labour, get higher taxes…”

Bone Schools McDonnell on Tax

Peter Bone schools John McDonnell on the difference between avoidance and evasion. And puts to him Guido’s story about Labour HQ being rented from an offshore trust

Labour Rent Their HQ From Offshore Trust

As Corbyn goes big on the Paradise Papers, it’s worth nothing that Labour rent their London headquarters from a tax exempt property unit trust fund based offshore in Jersey. Labour are thought to pay nearly a million pounds a year to lease the eighth floor of the Southside development on Victoria Street. The building is owned by WELPUT (The West End of London Property Unit Trust) – an investment trust established in Jersey, and managed by Schroder Property Managers (Jersey) Limited. Read their press release explaining the arrangement here.

Jersey Property Unit Trusts of this nature have a number of tax features that make them attractive – the rent Labour pays goes to Jersey. What did Corbyn say about people who send money offshore?

Corbyn Suggests Queen Should Apologise

Hang on a minute, does this mean Corbyn thinks McDonnell should apologise for his pension investments being managed offshore?

McDonnell and Guardian’s Offshore Investments

John McDonnell is going on the attack over the Paradise Papers, insisting: “Where the Tories refuse to act, Labour will end the era of government turning a blind eye to the scandal of tax avoidance by clamping down on tax havens and ending the loopholes”. The main revelation from the leak so far is that the Queen’s private estate has money invested offshore. Not entirely unlike John McDonnell’s pension investments being managed in Guernsey… 

The Guardian’s story this morning targets those that have assets in 19 tax havens including the Cayman Islands. Which reminded Guido of Guardian Media Group’s GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited, registered in the Caymans.

The Huffington Post splash this morning also leads on the Paradise Papers – no mention that HuffPo’s profits are blatantly transferred to Luxembourg. The owners of the Mail, News UK and The Telegraph also have various offshore tax-efficient structures. Facebook, Google and Guido are not UK-owned though they have at least never piously and hypocritically claimed to be in favour of clamping down on tax havens. Guido’s point is that the likes of the Guardian should practice what they preach…

High Tax Tories

The budget is a month away and Guido expects little relief from the Chancellor. The Tories like to say they are “the party of low taxes”. Which rings a little hollow when the tax burden is now higher than it was under the dead hand of Gordon Brown in 2009 and it will, if the OBR is correct, hit a level not seen for two generations. It is as if Nigel Lawson never happened…

Britain now has a higher tax burden than Spain, the share of GDP taken in tax is a full 10 points higher than it is in Ireland and 8 points higher than the traditionally low tax USA. Governments will never be able to cut taxes as long as people look to the state to solve all their problems. The welfare state is a constant in most households, not just a safety net when you are sick or unemployed. In work benefits subsidise low pay. Having children – even if you can’t afford them – is financially incentivised. Labour bleat on about welfare cuts yet more than half of households receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes. This is not sustainable. If tax evasion is anything like the problem the left claim it is baffling that more tax is being collected nowadays than in the 70s…

Gordon Brown used to talk about prudence when he was squandering money. George Osborne claimed he would fix the roof and balance the budget in 5 years. The deficit lasted longer than Osborne’s political career…

The only way to cut taxes is to grow the economy. The way to turbo-charge the economy is to cut taxes on individuals and enterprises. The Tories seem to have forgotten that their purpose is not to just manage the welfare state. What is the point of the Tories if they don’t cut taxes?

Green NGOs Spend Taxpayers’ Millions Lobbying Government

Green NGOs are spending millions lobbying against the interests of British taxpayers, analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has found. Taxpayers’ cash received by charities including Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is being splurged on partisan political activities such as supporting parliamentary candidates and lobbying ministers. The cash has been used to block projects which experts say would bring down energy costs for consumers. 

The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Its sister organisation Birdlife International received the third highest amount of European Commission taxpayer funding of any green group, being granted €3.8 million. Likewise, Friends of the Earth received the second highest amount of any such group, being handed €7.6 million. In conjunction with Greenpeace (which does not receive EC funding), these charities have acted more like pressure groups by:

  • Orchestrating a massive media campaign to fight a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point;
  • Launching law suits to obstruct the construction of new power stations;
  • Lobbying the UK government to prevent expansion of infrastructure;
  • Lobbying successfully to prevent exploration for shale gas taking place in Wiltshire;
  • Publishing misleading advertising to influence consumer and public opinion, and spread falsehoods about shale gas exploration.

Friends of the Earth also spent more than £100,000 backing a pro-Green crop of parliamentary candidates. The Electoral Commission intervened and fined Friends of the Earth for failing to register properly as a donor. The amount spent was way over the limit imposed on candidates themselves in the final stages of the election campaign…

Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network, which has received more than €710,000 from the European Commission over the past decade, is currently campaigning to ban glyphosate (a weed killer). The pressure group claims glyphosate is a “potentially cancer-inducing chemical”, despite Europe’s own chemicals regulator, the European Chemicals Agency, finding

“The available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria… to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.”

A ban would cost taxpayers £228 million a year. A probe carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute found that, overall:

  • A total of €86.5 million has been given to a range of environmental groups by the European Commission over the past 10 years;
  • 34 groups have been given more than €1 million.

This enormous pile of taxpayers cash is being ploughed into lobbying activities which directly prevent UK taxpayers from benefiting from cheaper energy and new infrastructure. Taxpayers’ Alliance Chief Executive John O’Connell said:

“It’s bad enough that politicians are piling costs onto consumers with their hare-brained energy schemes, but the fact that taxpayers are paying pressure groups to campaign against their interests adds insult to injury.


“There are plenty of reasons for the government to stop this gravy train in its tracks as it is, but the fact that some of these groups have run dishonest campaigns and fallen foul of electoral commission rules must surely be a final nail in the coffin for this taxpayer funded lobbying.”

Stay tuned this week for more in Guido’s Green NGO Sockpuppets series…

UKIP Leadership Candidate Linked to Belize Offshore Banking Firm

UKIP leadership candidate John Rees-Evans has a very eclectic CV. He claims to have been a “private soldier” working with the Ugandan People’s Defence Force to fight terrorists. He says he has worked in a meat factory, as a postman, as a pizza delivery man and a builder. He apparently runs an expedition company called Team Kilimanjaro, and has an “apocalypse-proof” compound in rural Bulgaria complete with a cache of weapons and panic room. Yet Rees-Evans is not so vocal about another of his interests…

Rees-Evans’ personal email address is registered at an unusual looking website called SAS.VC. “SAS” stands for “Safaris, Adventure and Survival”, and purports to organise holidays in Africa. The “.VC” domain is the internet country code for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The website is registered to a “Linus Evans” in Belize. Slightly curious for an African holiday company…

Even more curious is the about page for the “SAS” website. Far from mentioning anything about “Survival, Adventure and Safaris”, it reveals “SAS” actually stands for “Systech Accounting Services”. It says:

“Systech Accounting Services is a trading name of Exposure Limited, incorporated in Belize… Systech specialise in assisting their clients with the preparation of annual accounts, income tax and corporation tax returns, bookkeeping, payroll processing, business start-ups, international company formations, company secretarial, translation & proofreading services, and specialist taxation advice.”

So “SAS” is actually a “specialist taxation” firm based in Belize, also using the name “Exposure Limited”. Exposure is run by a Leo Rees-Evans and the company designed John Rees-Evans’ website.

What else do we know about Exposure / Systech Accounting Services? Online directories reveal Systech offers offshore bank accounts and offshore company incorporation. For a fee of €499, Systech boasts it will set you up with “the world’s leading offshore bank”. The directory also gives an address at a PO Box in Popovo, Bulgaria. Remember who else lived in rural Bulgaria? John Rees-Evans, at his famous high-security compound…

It seems odd that Rees-Evans has been so boastful about his varied career and never mentioned Systech Accounting Services and their offshore banking services. Just the other day Rees-Evans was talking at a hustings about how terrible it is when British taxpayers’ money “ends up in offshore bank accounts”. Unfortunately he hasn’t replied to Guido’s requests for comment. We’d need the real SAS to breach his compound to get to the bottom of it…

Hodge Dodges Amazon Boycott

Margaret Hodge is calling for people to join her in boycotting Amazon over their tax arrangements:

“I hope people take a leaf out of my book and stop using Amazon. I don’t use them at all… If we stop using Amazon then they may understand how angry their customers are.”

You can read more about Hodge’s strong and principled views on Amazon in her book Called to Account, for sale on Amazon:

“I don’t use them at all…”

HM Treasury Deletes Appeal for Ideas After Guido Offers One

The Treasury swiftly deleted a tweet appealing for ideas about how to make business “more productive” when it didn’t like Guido’s answer: to simplify national insurance and income tax into a single unified income tax. Social media mandarins acted when they realised Guido’s reply was on its way to going viral. Tweeters were quick to welcome it:

Incidentally on an average £27,000 salary your payslip would show a pay rise to some £31,000, with £9,000 deducted in merged tax, a marginal rate of some 45% on taxed income. Government is all for hearing ideas for increased productivity, except when they show how overtaxed you are…

Abi Now Doesn’t Want 100% Inheritance Tax – for Herself

Abi Wilkinson’s plan for a 100% inheritance tax in The Guardian was met with derision and some scepticism. She has now revised her plans and would actually quite like to inherit thousands from her parents. A tax loophole for her own little personal tax haven. Abi clearly thinks totalitarian socialism is only something for other people to suffer…

100% Inheritance Tax: Stupid or Evil?

Abi Wilkinson in The Guardian has a “utopian idea”, a 100% inheritance tax. Guido thinks that sounds more like a dystopian idea, against human nature, and a totalitarian idea in breach of our most fundamental human rights.  The only question Guido has outstanding: is the idea just stupid or is it evil?

Hammond’s “Sound Money” Speech Sadly All Spin

Philip Hammond’s Mansion House speech this morning was sound in its rhetoric. “We must make anew the case for a market economy and for sound money,” he said, warning that “higher taxes and higher borrowing” must be rejected, taxes must be kept “as low as possible” or else they will “slow growth, undermine competitiveness, and cost jobs”. He repeated this language at Cabinet, telling colleagues of the “importance of making the case for a market economy and sound money”. This is all positive rhetoric. The policy truth is alas very different.

Hammond confirmed this morning that he still wants to push back closing the deficit until 2025, ten years later than the Tories promised. The Tories have added £500 billion to the national debt in 7 years, Hammond now plans to add a billion a week to the burden. That is not “sound money” by any definition of the term.

Taxes have risen under the Tories. The claim by the Tories to be a low tax party has not been true this century. They raised VAT almost immediately upon coming into office. They argue they have cut business taxes, yet they raised dividend taxes on small business owners and tried to raise National Insurance contributions. Hammond ditched the triple tax lock at the election. He has signalled further tax rises are likely. The tax burden under this Chancellor will rise to its highest level since 1969. That is not keeping taxes “as low as possible”. 

Hammond is sounder on economics than Theresa May and her former aides. Talking up the “market economy” is clearly a slap down of the PM’s failed attempt at interventionism in the manifesto. Though his claim to be funding public services by anything other than more borrowing and more taxes is sadly all spin…

Gary Lineker Tax Scheme Loses Court Bid

Gary Lineker is among a group of celebrities who have lost a court bid to overturn a £700 million tax bill. The achingly right-on footballer turned self-appointed current affairs expert claimed the press were pursuing a “vendetta” against him over his involvement in the Ingenious film investment scheme, where tax reliefs were claimed on artificial movie losses.[…] Read the rest

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