Moves in France, Denmark and Poland to ban tax haven companies from coronavirus bailouts are a start, but don't go far enough.
The UK should play hard ball with help only given as a priority to workers, not billionaire owners. Politicians should also insist companies stop using tax havens; lift the lid on clever accounting tricks; and end the mystery of who owns these businesses.
Read a comment piece by our Executive Director, Robert Palmer, about this issue in the Independent.
Responding to news that Denmark and Poland are to exclude companies based in tax havens from coronavirus related relief.
Tax Justice UK Executive Director, Robert Palmer, said: “The UK should follow Denmark and Poland’s lead and exclude tax haven companies from coronavirus relief.
“Companies that seek to dodge their obligations to society by cutting their tax bills shouldn’t expect a bailout when things go wrong. The UK should ensure that all bailouts come with conditions to ensure good business behaviour.
“After the crisis we need a new deal between business and government to ensure that all companies contribute properly, including by paying their fair share of tax. Bailouts should be accompanied by reassurances for workers on furlough that they'll still be supported."
The High Pay Centre has published a briefing note setting out the conditions that could be part of a broader approach to corona related support for businesses.
This comment piece by our Executive Director, Robert Palmer, first appeared in The Times.
The real heroes of our society are emerging: they are nurses, supermarket staff, delivery drivers and helpful neighbours. Many of these people are woefully underpaid.
The coming months will see politicians urge the public to show solidarity normally reserved for wartime.
When the worst is over, there will be a big debate about the role of the state and to what extent measures introduced to help get us through will be rolled back.
After the 2008 financial crisis, the burden of spending cuts fell disproportionately on the disabled, sick and vulnerable. Even the NHS, despite record investment, failed to keep up with demand. The promise to the families who have lost loved ones to this epidemic must be “never again”.
Politicians would be foolish to think that the public hasn’t noticed the deterioration of our public realm. One of the consistent messages I have heard in focus groups from Blyth Valley to Hastings since the election is that people feel insecure. Just about managing families are worried about their future amid pervasive resignation with the way things are.
That was the temperature of the nation before coronavirus arrived.
The health and economic emergency we’re facing has exposed even further the threadbare nature of our social safety net. This means that an austerity re-run is not an option. Instead, what we need is something closer to the spirit of 1945, when post-war rebuilding saw a new political consensus that included the founding of the NHS and an expansion in state support.
The Prime Minister has already suggested that he gets this. Earlier this month he said that: “In 2008 everyone said we bailed out the banks and didn't look after the people who really suffered. This time we will look after the people who really suffer..."
The government should be bold. Many of the changes introduced over the last few weeks, such as more generous sick pay and Universal Credit, must stay. But we should go further, for example by introducing a minimum income guarantee.
As we start to rebuild after the immediate crisis has passed we need a new social contract to support increased spending. Tax loopholes exploited by the wealthy and companies should be closed for good. Serious consideration needs to be given to a tax on wealth. Some are suggesting an extra levy on companies making super-sized profits, as happened during WWII. We also need to properly resource HMRC and stop the current programme of layoffs of tax staff who have been designated key workers. These measures would ensure that those with the broadest shoulders are contributing to our recovery.
Polling that my organisation - Tax Justice UK - carried out as we went into lockdown found that this would be popular. 74% of the public want to see the wealthy paying more tax. Only 24% of people rule out paying more tax themselves.
Before the virus struck, there were signs that a cross-party space was opening up to address issues of inequality and public services, with the Conservatives championing a “levelling up” agenda.
Once we’re through the worst of the crisis, these discussions will become even more acute. Progressive tax reform needs to be part of the mix if the public is going to be able to confidently say “never again”.
A poll carried out as the UK went into coronavirus lockdown found Brits already concerned about the state of the NHS, public services and poverty. The poll of 3,000 people by Survation for Tax Justice UK revealed significant support for higher taxes on wealth and companies. The detailed results are available here.
We’re all coming together to help get through the devastation caused by coronavirus, but the crisis has exposed how threadbare our public services have become.
When we emerge from this, we need a response that’s along the lines of 1945, when we created the NHS, rather than a repeat of post-2008 austerity. Instead of looking for more cuts, the public favours policies that strengthen our precarious social safety net.
The poll found more than three quarters (79%) believe that NHS, policing and education were either the same (25%) or have become worse (53%) in the last 10 years; 67% said homelessness was worse; 78% feel that poverty was either the same or worse; while people think that foodbank use (64%) and inequality (63%) have both got worse.
The extra government spending introduced to deal with the crisis will largely be funded through borrowing and money creation. But as the crisis fades, a return to austerity would go down badly with the country. Higher taxes on wealth and companies would be a popular way to support more government spending and tackle rampant inequality.
74% of the public want to see the wealthy paying more tax - including 64% of Conservatives. Nearly two thirds of respondents (66%) believe that people who earn a living from their wealth should face the same tax rates as those who work. 69% support council tax reform to make it more closely reflect current house prices, so those with more expensive homes pay more. 63% support an annual wealth tax, including 57% of Conservatives. Only 24% don't want to pay more tax personally and a similar percentage (26%) of respondents want to see tax cuts for everyone.
The poll also found people in an uncompromising mood about companies and individuals who avoid tax, 87% think that the government should close tax loopholes for corporations and individuals, meanwhile 74% agree it’s not right that wealthy people can pay for accountants to find ways to avoid paying their share. 84% say tax avoidance by companies is morally wrong, even if legal, and a similar proportion (80%) take the same view of tax avoidance by individuals. 67% support higher taxes on companies’ profits, including 61% of Conservative voters.
People have had enough of the clever accounting that allows companies and wealthy individuals to pay less than they should. We need an economy that prioritises care. If we are to be resilient to future shocks, that means the strongest taking their fair share of the burden through higher taxes on wealth and companies.
Post-crisis tax changes could include higher taxes on wealth and a tax on super-sized corporate profits. Any reform would have to be accompanied by more resources to HMRC to administer the scheme.
This polling builds on our report “What’s wealth got to do with it", which was based on seven focus groups asking the public their attitudes on public spending, wealth and tax. It is available here. It is part of an ongoing project to understand public attitudes on tax.
The survey took place 17-23 March via an online panel and consisted of 3,010 UK residents aged 18+. It is part of an ongoing project by TJ-UK to test attitudes on public services, inequality and tax. Download the full results tables here.
This project was funded by the Friends Provident Foundation.
As we come to the end of our second week in Coronavirus lockdown, the impact of this crisis is becoming stark with thousands sick, businesses struggling and the government taking unprecedented measures to intervene in the economy.
Our work at Tax Justice UK is part of a broader movement to achieve a fairer society so that we can all thrive. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve teamed up with other groups to push the government to take more decisive action.
We joined over 100 economists calling for more support for the self-employed.
Along with Greenpeace, and dozens of others, we argued that any bailout of the airline industry should come with stringent conditions on tax, workers rights and the environment.
With 80 organisations we called for urgent action to stop millions of families falling into problematic debt, including from council tax. The government has already responded with a three-month payment freeze on credit cards and loans.
We’re also starting to think about how politicians deal with what comes after the crisis. More austerity is simply not an option.
Next week, we’re publishing a big opinion poll taken as the country went into lockdown. The public is in no mood for more cuts, and the vast majority of people support higher taxes. We’ll share the findings with you when they’re out.
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