Taxation has to be fair and unavoidable

Alan Campbell officially opening the new Spanish City plaza.
Alan Campbell officially opening the new Spanish City plaza.

Parliament returned from the Easter recess with the Government facing questions after the Panama Papers revealed tax avoidance on a grand scale.

Politicians might not be responsible for past decisions by their families, but, as he acknowledged, Prime Minister David Cameron failed to close down questions about his own financial affairs.

Whether this will herald a Swedish approach, where everyone’s tax returns are public, or a more limited one, with the public peeking behind politicians’ curtains, only time will tell.

Ironically, the point of tax avoidance surely is that information does not appear on tax returns.

The question is not whether tax avoidance is legal and within the rules, but whether the rules are strong enough. We can and should act in territories for which we are responsible, and, in office, we acted in the Turks and Caicos Islands because of financial wrongdoing.

Benjamin Franklin said the only two things certain in life are death and taxes.

We all want better schools and hospitals, our streets kept safe and our country defended, but few relish paying tax. Taxation needs to be fair, transparent and unavoidable, and politicians need to be trusted to spend our money wisely.

What is worrying is that just eight per cent of people asked were surprised by what the Panama Papers revealed. When governments close down loopholes, then maybe that trust will grow.