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Majority of Conservative voters think Government should be doing more to tackle tax dodging - poll

Posted by Melanie Kramers Senior Press Officer

19th Nov 2017

More than two thirds (70 percent) of Conservative voters think the Government should be doing more to tackle tax dodging by companies, which deprives countries of vital funds needed to fight poverty, a new poll commissioned by Oxfam in the wake of the Paradise Papers has found.

The YouGov survey showed that four out of five (80 percent) Conservative supporters want tougher transparency rules for companies headquartered in the UK or with a significant presence here, which Oxfam is calling on the Chancellor to commit to in next week's Budget. The poll also showed overwhelming support among the wider public for action against tax avoidance.

Oxfam has calculated that implementing public country-by-country reporting for UK-based multinationals would cover one in five of the world's biggest businesses, including listed companies that represent almost 60 percent of the market value of all large listed companies - some £32 trillion.

The Paradise Papers also highlighted the key role played by Britain's overseas territories and crown dependencies, such as the British Virgin Islands and Jersey, in facilitating global tax avoidance. Almost two thirds (62 percent) of Conservative voters thought the UK Government had a responsibility to make these UK-linked jurisdictions more transparent about who owns and profits from companies registered there.

Apart from Montserrat, no overseas territory or crown dependency has agreed to the UK Government's request to introduce public registers revealing who owns companies incorporated there - a pledge first made by David Cameron in 2013.

Katy Chakrabortty, Oxfam's Head of Advocacy, said: "The Government sounds dangerously like it thinks it's job done on tackling tax avoidance. But despite some positive steps, gaping loopholes mean the UK and developing countries continue to miss out on vital funds needed to support the poorest.

"This poll shows that the majority of the public, including Conservative supporters, think the Government should be doing more to tackle tax avoidance, including acting to ensure that our overseas territories and crown dependencies tear off the veils of secrecy that hide tax dodgers from public scrutiny.

"The good news is that the Government could make a real difference simply by implementing its existing policies. Ministers need to enforce the transparency they have asked for in our own tax havens. 

"In his Budget statement the Chancellor should commit to implement the policy of public country by country reporting by the end of 2019, requiring UK-based multinationals to publish their tax payments in every country. By doing so, the UK would help to shine a light on corporate tax affairs and boost accountability far beyond our shores."

The survey found that 74 percent of the British public thought the Government should be doing more to reduce corporate tax dodging, with 78 percent in favour of a requirement for multinationals to publish tax and profit information in each country where they operate. Almost two thirds (64 percent) thought the Government had a responsibility to make the overseas territories and crown dependencies more transparent about who owns and profits from companies registered there. 

Economist Gabriel Zucman has estimated that wealthy British tax dodgers hold more than £170 billion in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, costing the Treasury around £5bn a year in lost revenues - money that could be used to fight poverty. 

In poorer countries, a much greater proportion of the overall tax take comes from corporate taxes, the International Monetary Fund has found, making it particularly important to fund hospitals and schools. The world's poorest regions are estimated to lose at least $170bn (£128bn) a year to tax avoidance by companies and wealthy individuals. 

On Tuesday Oxfam will present a petition to Number 11 Downing Street, urging the Chancellor to act to end tax secrecy. Earlier this month Oxfam launched a hard-hitting film - 'The Heist No One is Talking About' - illustrating the human cost of tax avoidance on the world's poorest. 

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For more information or to interview a spokesperson, please contact: Melanie Kramers mkramers1@oxfam.org.uk / 07825 088894 or Christina Corbett: ccorbett@oxfam.org.uk / 07557 483758 

Notes to editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,630 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13 - 14 November 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Full results online

Bermuda topped Oxfam's list of the world's 15 worst corporate tax havens, published last year, which also named three other UK-linked territories - the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the British Virgin Islands. 

In Tuesday's emergency debate on tax avoidance and evasion in the House of Commons, Treasury financial secretary, Mel Stride, spoke of the "shared view across this House that aggressive tax avoidance and evasion are utterly wrong" and cited the Government's "very strong track record in that respect" with "75 measures [brought in] since 2010 to clamp down on these practices. A further 35 will come in from 2015, raising £18.5 billion by 2020-21." 

Oxfam's new briefing paper Ending the Tax Scandals sets out five policy measures needed to tackle tax avoidance. 

Economist Gabriel Zucman estimated that in 2014 individuals held a global total of $7.6trn in tax havens. If tax were paid on the income this wealth generates, an extra $190bn would be available to governments every year, including $70bn for the world's poorest regions. He estimates the wealth held by Britons in tax havens to be $284bn, approximately 2 percent of UK net wealth as measured by Credit Suisse and costing the UK more than $8bn per year in lost tax revenues. The sterling conversions for Zucman's figures here use the average 2014 exchange rate of $0.61 to £1, rounded to two significant figures. 

The UN estimates that corporate tax avoidance costs developing countries at least $100bn a year. Economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that the world's poorest regions lose $71bn annually to offshore tax avoidance by wealthy individuals. 

Oxfam used Orbis data to estimate how many companies would be covered if the UK implemented public country by country reporting rules, which would cover both large British multinationals and foreign multinationals with a significant presence in the UK such as a subsidiary or branch. Data on market value is only available for listed companies, about half of this group, but their share alone is around EUR36 trillion (£32 trn - at an exchange rate of £1 = Euro 1.12) - which is 59 percent of the market value of all large listed companies with a revenue greater than EUR750 million. This reporting would not impose an additional burden on the largest companies, but it would ensure greater transparency about their global practices. Oxfam believes this threshold of EUR750 million - set by the OECD - should be lowered to include a greater number of companies. It is unclear what threshold the UK would set if introduced this legislation unilaterally. For example, the Flint amendment to the Finance Bill referenced companies with an annual turnover greater than £200m. 


Blog post written by Melanie Kramers

Senior Press Officer

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