When it comes to tackling dirty money and tax avoidance through the UK this government talks a good game.
Since 2016, Conservative Prime Ministers have promised to introduce new rules to stop the rich and powerful using UK companies and property to hide their money and dodge taxes. A proposed economic crime bill would be a step in the right direction. On Tuesday, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that he was still planning to introduce these measures.
But behind the scenes things might be different.
A government minister, Lord Agnew, resigned this week saying that the government isn’t doing enough to tackle fraud. The former minister also claimed that Boris Johnson’s government is dropping this promised economic crime bill.
In response to these claims, we’ve mobilised our partners to find out what’s going on.
The Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake secured an emergency debate on the issue in the House of Commons. During the debate, the government’s own anti-corruption champion, John Penrose MP, claimed that dropping the economic crime bill “would be about as popular as a cup of cold sick”. You can watch the full debate here (the debate starts at 12.38).
We told the Guardian that it was wrong to kick anti-corruption legislation into the long grass yet again. We pointed out that British companies can still be used to funnel dirty money through the UK.
It is clear that it will go down very badly with the public if the government fails to act. Over 117,000 people have signed our petition calling for action.
If the bill is dropped it suggests that the government has something to hide.
Rest assured that we will continue to fight and mobilise our allies, the media and supportive MPs.
Several Conservative politicians are calling for the government to scrap the planned increase in national insurance, which is meant to support the NHS and social care. They argue that the cost of living crisis means families wouldn’t be able to pay any extra taxes.
However, this is the wrong way of seeing things. We don’t need lower taxes overall, instead we need politicians to make better choices about who’s paying those taxes.
The NHS and social care system desperately need more investment. As many organisations, including the Womens’ Budget Group and Nuffield Trust, have pointed out, even the new funding announced last autumn isn’t going to be enough to plug the gaps.
It would be better for the government to take a fairer way of raising funds to support the NHS and social care. The pandemic has seen the fortunes of the wealthiest balloon. Analysis by Oxfam found that the wealth of the ten richest men in the world has doubled during covid.
The Trade Union Congress argued that it would be better for the government to raise taxes on the wealthy. For example, bringing capital gains tax into line with income tax could raise up to £17 billion a year.
The Patriotic Millionaires, a group of rich people arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy, has suggested an annual wealth tax could support much needed investment in social care.
Tax policy involves political choices. We need these choices to be fair. We also need reforms to the social care system that are well-funded and effective. The Women’s Budget Group reminds us that delivering a long-term settlement on social care that addresses the immediate crises in the sector cannot be delayed.
It’s time to properly invest in social care and to do it in a way that’s fair and proportionate.
The impact of the cost of living crisis hit home this week in a Twitter thread by food campaigner Jack Monroe.
Jack pointed out that the official figure of a 5% increase in the cost of living massively underestimates the true costs faced by ordinary families. Looking at basic goods, Jack estimated that the price of pasta is up 141% in a year, canned spaghetti up 169% and rice up a whopping 344%.
Weekly shopping bills appear to be rocketing and that's not all. The country is bracing for higher fuel bills. At the same time workers on very low incomes will be asked to pay a higher national insurance rate from April. Many people will also see steep council tax rises in the spring. Much of this is driven by councils increasing taxes to help fund social care costs.
What is the government going to do about these bread and butter issues?
On tax, Rishi Sunak has a choice. He can continue to ask those with the least to contribute even more.
Or he can ask those with the broadest shoulders to pay a fairer share instead.
The richest have done very well financially during the pandemic. Research from Oxfam found that the fortunes of the 10 wealthiest men in the world have doubled under covid.
A group of over 100 millionaires are calling for governments around the world to introduce wealth taxes. They estimate that a progressive wealth tax in the UK could raise £44 billion a year. It would only affect the very rich by starting once someone’s wealth was over £3.6 million.
Tax is about political choices. It would make much more sense to close the tax loopholes open to the rich and powerful than focus on raising national insurance.
If the pandemic taught us anything it's that we all rely on low paid care workers, nurses and shopkeepers who dug us out of the covid crisis. The cost of living is shaping up to be a huge political issue. We will continue to campaign for those with the greatest wealth to contribute their fair share.
The year already looks set to be dominated by concerns about the cost of living. The price of heating your home, feeding your family and other living expenses is already rocketing.
So it was startling to learn that some people have pockets deep enough to pay $2 million for a single bottle of whiskey.
It’s a jarring reminder of what wealth inequality looks like. This is in the midst of a pandemic in which the wealthy have seen their riches grow, while those with less have struggled.
Our Executive Director, Robert Palmer, was in the Guardian and the Financial Times this week commenting on new government figures on wealth. Analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows that wealth inequality is entrenched in this country.
It’s highly likely that the official statistics underestimate the true level of inequality, as academics Arun Advani and Hannah Tarrant pointed out.
Over the last thirty years, the level of wealth in this country has ballooned. At the same time taxes on wealth have barely budged.
This is why Tax Justice UK will continue to press for wealth tax reform during 2022.
The ongoing cost of living crisis is also why we joined with 27 organisations to urge the government to respond to the massive increase in energy bills. In a joint letter to the Prime Minister and Chancellor, we called for emergency funding for the most vulnerable, funded in part by a windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry. The organisations involved include Greenpeace, Age-UK and Save the Children.
At Tax Justice UK we have lots of other exciting plans for this year. We will continue to be a loud voice calling for tax justice. We hope you can join us in this.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that wealth inequality was entrenched for more than a decade before the pandemic hit. The analysis shows that wealth inequality is significantly higher than income inequality.
The ONS statistical release “Total wealth in Great Britain: April 2018 to March 2020” was published today.
Even before the pandemic it was clear that wealth inequality was entrenched. Since covid hit the wealthy have seen their riches grow, while those with less have struggled.
If taxes have to rise it should be those with the most assets who pay. The Chancellor could start by equalising capital gains with income tax, tackling tax avoidance and ending tax loopholes.
Tax Justice UK has found massive public support for closing tax loopholes used by the wealthy and clamping down on tax dodging.
The official figures underestimate wealth inequality in the UK. Academics at the University of Warwick and LSE have pointed out that the ONS figures don't include business wealth and that the very wealthy are less likely to respond to the survey that the figures are based on. According to the analysis by Arun Advani and Hannah Tarrant the ONS under-reports total wealth by 8%. This means that wealth inequality is higher than official estimates.