Over the last few years we have seen scandal after scandal relating to tax avoidance or evasion. Schemes to avoid paying a fair share of tax are being used by a range of individuals and corporations, from celebrities like Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow, to multinational corporations like Amazon, Starbucks and Vodafone.
Recently HSBC has been rightly criticised for helping their wealthy customers avoid tax by using Swiss bank accounts. It has been one of the most popular topics raised with me by residents.
Tax evasion is illegal, and since 2010 Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has toughened the government stance on tax evasion. Nearly £1 billion has been invested in fighting tax evasion and avoidance, reclaiming £7 billion that would otherwise been lost. The number of prosecutions for tax evasion has risen from 165 in 2010/11 to 1,165 in 2014/15.
In contrast, tax avoidance is legal, but it is certainly not in the spirit of the values we hold in this country, that everyone must pay their fair share. Whether it is sheltering schemes used by celebrities or tax loopholes which enable companies to avoid tax, the Government needs to try and keep one step ahead.
Unfortunately, people will always be looking to avoid tax and they often have assistance, therefore I welcome the new regulations proposed by Danny Alexander that individuals or financial institutions that have assisted in avoiding tax will face prosecutions and financial penalties equal to the amount of tax avoided.
It is just the same as if someone helped drive the car after an armed bank robbery. I hope that these proposals will be accepted by all parties and be able to come into effect before the election.
These people who try to cheat the system are effectively stealing from each and every one of us. We all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens. Tax avoidance and evasion undermines our economy and affects the services we all use such as the NHS, the emergency services and our education system.
By not having that revenue, services will be cut further or hard working families will have to shoulder additional burden which is morally wrong when it is the richest in society who are most able to avoid paying tax, you won’t find many people on modest wages able to do so.