David Cameron to act against Britain's offshore tax havens
Members of the UK200Group of independent accountancy and lawyer firms have today commented on David Cameron who has come under pressure to act against Britain's offshore industry at June's G8 summit, as leaked evidence continued to mount that politicians and wealthy individuals from all over the world have used the British Virgin Islands to conceal funds.
Lord Oakeshott, the Lib Dem peer and a former Treasury spokesman, said: "How can David Cameron keep a straight face calling for the G8 to make big business pay tax when we let the BVI use British law and British protection to suck in billions in dirty money?"
Cormac Marum, former inspector of taxes and head of tax advisory at UK200Group member firm Harwood Hutton
“This does cause David Cameron embarrassment although he does not run the BVI. But it is not the tax rules in the BVI which causes the problem, it’s the secrecy which surrounds BVI shell companies. There is nothing inherently wrong with anyone using the BVI, provided the money was legitimately earned or acquired in the first place and full and complete disclosure is made, where required, to the relevant tax authorities.
“Accountants and lawyers, who have advised clients on these matters and ensured that these principles have been upheld, have nothing to fear. It is highly likely that some of the money in the BVI is ‘dirty money’ where those principles have not been upheld and the secrecy which surrounds BVI shell companies makes it difficult to investigate.
“What is required is an information exchange treaty between the BVI and other countries, like the ones recently agreed between the UK and countries like Switzerland & Liechtenstein and proposed with the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. In that way the money in the BVI can be disclosed to authorities around the globe to check that the money was legitimately earned or acquired and any tax due has been properly paid and not evaded.”
David Whiscombe, tax director at UK200Group member firm Berg Kaprow Lewis
“Although we suspect that absolutely no-one will be interested in hearing it, it is nonetheless worth saying that there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for operating a business through a company registered in an overseas jurisdiction such as BVI, which have absolutely nothing at all to do with tax evasion, money laundering, corruption or any of the other nefarious reasons commonly attributed to it.
!Particularly in the context of individuals who are resident or domiciled overseas or carrying on business in whole or in part overseas, offshore structures of one sort or another are a sensible and routine part of the tax planner’s portfolio and no-one who is at all well-informed seriously questions the reasonableness of such planning.
“Of course, offshore secrecy can be and no doubt is often abused: but it is no more fair and reasonable to chastise all users of overseas structures as crooks than it is to vilify everyone who works in banking. We’d be more than happy to be “exposed” as “accountants who benefit from the trade” – neither we nor our clients have anything to hide or anything to be ashamed of.”
David Ingall, Past President, UK200Group
“The immediate conclusion that because you want confidentiality you are on the fiddle reflects the manner in which public opinion is being manipulated currently. But the real question should be who is leading this? Does it reflect government's desperation for additional taxes or is it a subtle campaign on the part of HMRC to make the GAAR more acceptable? Tax evasion is wrong but the line between evasion and avoidance is being blurred.”
Established in 1986, UK200Group is the leading mutual professional association in the UK with some 150 offices of quality-assured member accountancy and lawyer firms throughout the UK totalling over 550 partners, 150,000 business clients and global links in over 50 countries. UK200Group provide services and products that are designed to enhance the business performance of its members. Telephone 01252 401050, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.uk200group.co.uk
UK200Group is an association of separate and independently owned and managed accountancy firms and lawyer firms. UK200Group does not provide client services and it does not accept responsibility or liability for the acts or omissions of its members. Likewise, the members of UK200Group are separate and independent legal entities, and as such each has no responsibility or liability for the acts or omissions of other members.
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