Wednesday 4 March 2015

Off shore Tax havens used for secrecy purposes

You can often read some great stuff in the Guardian Newspaper - on a know thy enemy basis I must read articles a few times a week from the site.

Alot of the time though they manage to be both right and wrong in the same article. Today there is a breathless puff piece from a company called Transparency International. It claims there is huge corruption behind the practice of people using off shore tax havens to have Special Purpose Vehicle companies buy property, often will stolen money.

This definitely falls into the no shit Sherlock category of reporting.

It then makes some wilder guesstimates about how widespread this is and also some awful examples of bad practice. It says for example that Saif Gaddafi had used such a process to buy a property...of course this must be corruption. But of course when Gaddafi likely did this he was Tony Blair's best friend and buddy and not an enemy to the UK. Oh how we forget the changing whimsy of our foreign policy . Of course, once declared an enemy of the State the UK has stepped in and taken the property back. The allegation of corruption can only be that, there is little proof that Saif actually looted the money - circumstantially we know it to be true, but in any Country we would always wait for the rule of law rather than making populist judgements.

(OK, we will be making populist judgements in Ed Milliband's Britian because that is what the man is about, but we will see about this in a few weeks time...).

At the end of the article though, having not made much sense thus far, the Transparency International group say what they are looking to do is know who beneficial owners are prior to properties being bought in the UK by foreign companies and also to stop large cash transactions. The first idea is a good one, it should be publicly knowable as to who owns what, after all that is the point of the Land Registry. That alone will kill dead much property based tax avoidance and money laundering.

The use of cash is less appealing as it is quite possible for people to sell one property and make lots of cash and then buy another. Why this needs to be controlled is not clear beyond allowing the Banks even more control over your finances (on behalf of the State) than ever.

What goes unnoticed is the rather large efforts, via special stamp duty on SPV ownership, made by recent Governments. Property is now much more highly taxed than it was and though exposing corruption is a good thing, I expect any Government advised by the Treasury may think long and hard about the revenue implications of enacting such legislative change.

1 comment:

Nick Drew said...

Amusing to find that HSBC is one of this 'Transparency' group's donors

their name on the list comes with an asterisk, however ...

*Denotes that we are in dialogue with these companies in relation to bribery/corruption allegations or incidents