Should candidates in elections publish their tax returns?

 

              Last night on Any Questions when the audience was asked this question the large majority said “No”. Nigel Farage and I both argued against compulsory publication.

              I said that all candidiates for UK elected office should be prepared to assert or sign a declaration that they are paying all the usual range of UK taxes and are UK onshore taxpayers. MPs have to declare outside earnings. The same rule could usefully apply to elected Mayors and Police Chiefs once elected.

               There are three main arguments against requiring publication of tax returns.

               The first is it would reinforce the tendency of elections to be about individuals and their personal lives rather than about public policy and what they will do for the electors. The media fasciantion with the exchanges between Boris and Ken over personal tax and income is crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London.

             The second is it could lead to very misleading jibes about tax avoidance. If Candidate A and Candidate B have the same income, but Candidate A is saving the maximum permitted for his pension and Candidate B is putting aside the minimum, Candidate A will be paying less tax. Does this make him a nasty tax avoider, or a prudent man who does not wish to be a burden on taxpayerrs in his old age? Is Candidate B the more worthy because he is paying more tax, or feckless because he is not using a legitimate tax saving device to provide for his own old age?  Will any of these nuances come across in the noise of the headlines about tax rates?

              The third is how far back will all this go? Will it put goood potential candidates off because they have been successful in the past and have no wish to share all the details of their business and personal finances with everyone else?

               We are told this all happens now in American Presidential elections so it should happen here. The US President is a far more powerful office than that of an MP so maybe different rules should apply. I am not sure, however, that  Mr Romney’s low tax charge on his successful career to date should be a major preoccupation when deciding who would be best to lead the world’s superpower. I would like to know more about what he might do in Afghanistan or how he might change tax rates for all were he President. It appears he paid all the tax he had to.  I have no problem with the fact that someone managed his tax affairs well, if he behaved lawfully.

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115 Comments

  1. Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    For once, Mr Redwood, I completely agree with you. The fascination with personal tax affairs has led to the near-complete ignorance of each candidate’s policy. And like you, I believe that elections should be about policy not personality- even if I know we disagree on that policy.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      Of course they should not be published, only a complete fool like for example, Osborne or Cameron would publish them. But then Osborne recently called many highly moral people “morally repugnant” for trying to prevent his government wasting their money (when these moral people know, full well, that they have far more useful and worthwhile things to do with their money than loan to pigis, windfarms, spend on counter productive wars, the EU or white elephant stadia for jumped up school sports days).

      Oh well I suppose it will be interesting to see if he has declared the circa 10 years of “benefits in kind” from use the house of commons canteen (subsidised to about £100 per day per MP days attendance) and the subsidised(?) house of commons shop. Also were his travel and expense allowances always “wholly and exclusively” for his job or were some perhaps “entertaining”.

      Meanwhile HMRC seems to like to restrict mortals to £5 for lunch benefit away from home. Osborne recently also removed the 15 pence a day lunch voucher tax benefit.

      Still we are all in it together as they say. He would be mad to go down the publishing tax returns road – even if his accounts, those of his parents and relatives, are really whiter than white. How much tax do Cameron’s in laws pay on the subsidised wind farm income I wonder?

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        I see that David Dimbleby also claimed, like Osborne, not to be in 50% tax. This does not sound like the BBC pay scales we are used to – might he perhaps have a “personal company” of some sort to shelter his income – like so many others on the extended state sector pay role? He certainly seems very, very keen to defend the BBC (all the time) I notice.

        reply: This site has no knowledge of Mr Dimbleby’s tax affairs, and assumes he told the truth when commenting on his tax rate.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:52 am | Permalink

          I have no knowledge either, beyond what he said. I was just working on the basis that the BBC usually pays about 10 times the going rate for most top staff.

          And usually seem to find ones with the usual bizarre “BBC views” namely – pro EU, pro Green, pro ever bigger state, pro enforced equality, anti democratic and pro ever more regulation of everything.

        • rose
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          I’m in East Sussex at the moment and there are so many rumours swirling round about the tax arrangements of the millionaire hereditaries in the BBC that I wonder whether you could very kindly issue a more inclusive disclaimer, Mr R, to keep us all from prosecution here on this blog?

          • lifelogic
            Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            I make not any allegations at all just pondering. If he is not in the 50% band it does seem rather odd when BBC seem clearly to overpay top people by a factor of about ten. I am all in favour of tax avoidance anyway though not in favour of very much of the BBC.

          • rose
            Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

            I’m all in favour of tax avoidance too.

            I’m not in favour of encouraging ill-informed class hatred and envy against certain individuals, from the chair, on programmes like Question Time and Any Questions.

  2. Caterpillar
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I think the answer should be “no”. The question would not be necessary if the tax system were simpler, such that it is not possible to carry out essentially the same activities and pay different amounts of taxation (through type or timing). I suspect the reason the Chancellor appears to have come out in favour of publication is that it is his office that has failed to simplify, and thus enables differences.

    In general private life for those in public appears very strange. As JR indicates what should be important is a rational ability to do the job of an MP or higher. Issues such as tax, race, age, sexuality, promiscuity, tie-colour, body-type, Facebook photos, cricket/football/rugby team, musical taste … whatever else, should not be relevant unless they usefully evidence (in)experience / rationality.

    Two points I would make though;

    (i) If parliament wishes to pass laws to snoop into everyone else’s private life, continues to support US extradition on ltd evidence etc, then I am not surprised that some of the electorate will want to know everything about prospective candidates … assume guilt of the electorate and get the same treatment back.
    (ii) If politicians allow the confusion of bankers coordinating funding with the BoE printing money to buy govt bonds (giving their banking mates easy profits), again people will naturally wonder about who is upto what.

    In summary,
    (a) govt shouldn’t snoop into everyone else’s lives
    (b) all MPs should continually make an effort to explain how capitalism and banking properly works, and not support ZIRP and QE (particularly allowing profits from it … a motivation for the Chancellor again?)

    • Damien
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Caterpiller I can see your point and tend to agree .

      Unfortunately once the precedent has been made then it will become an expectation that all candidates submit their accounts to publication for close scrutiny. In the large part this will then become unnoticed and should not detract from the candidates arguing their policies. If they stall and procrastinate over publication like Romney then the media will start look further into the reasons why someone is not publishing their accounts. I think Boris and the other candidates realised that and reacted swiftly.

      John has given a few practical reasons why politicians should not publish but has failed to address the obvious issue which is that even political candidates have a reasonable expectation to some privacy and not wanting to publish their accounts does not mean all have something to hide.

      Likewise politicians should not legislate away everyones right to privacy , we should be free from electronic snoopers. These new proposals will lead to Wikileaks on steriods.

      I can see a scenario that once this new snoopers charter is passed that subsequent governments will use it to investigate their political adversaries, holding public enquiries like the cash for honours, Iraq war, MP’s expense etc.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Damien,

        It will be interesting to see whether politicans are soemhow given an opt out for the snooper charter (if it happens).

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      I cannot agree here at all – Musical taste is clearly vital they much like Bach, Wagner, Monteverdi, Byrd, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, Shostacovitch, Beethoven (other than the last movement of the Choral of course) …… Just look the the “desert island discs” choices of some and some very dodgy characters are revealed (usually actors, religious figures or dodgy politicians I find).

      The man that hath no music in himself,
      Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
      Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic,

        OK, a bit of profiling might add something.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Just look at Ken Clark’s taste in dodgy Jazz if you need any convincing evidence on this point.

  3. Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    As you were posting this, I was posting the following on my blog, we tweeted the posts almost simultaneously! Here is what I think:

    Last evening on the BBC’s Any Questions on Radio 4, the final question centred on the backgrounds of the controlling members of the British Coalition Cabinet, when John Redwood MP asked Nigel Farage MEP to assume Eric Pickles was a typical specimen of the privileged spoilt brats who in truth typify the leadership of his party.

    This morning, the independently wealthy Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, offers in a Telegraph interview to reveal his tax situation(remember he does not pay any tax at 50p according to an earlier public assertion) and that the Government could “consider” publishing the tax returns of those seeking the highest offices in the land!

    The privileged and completely useless amateurs typified by Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, aided by the ruthlessly ambitious such as Francis Maude and the unscrupulous such as Andy Coulson need to be rooted out from the national life of the country which in their greed they have completely sold out to the EU.

    Matching Cabinet Ministers lifestyles to their declared income for tax purposes should quickly achieve that end!

  4. peter davies
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    No need – this has come from the Ken Livingstone pantomine which has made him look stupid

  5. Julian
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    The issue with Ken Livingstone is not about tax per se but about hypocrisy. He complained about people legitimately avoiding tax while apparently doing the same himself.

    The real issue here is, as Caterpillar points out, that it is possible for those earning large amounts of money to pay a far smaller percentage in tax than those earning less. All the media attention is given to whether the top rate should be 45% or 50% but those rates only make a difference to the unfortunate few who are paid salaries subject to PAYE of a few hundred thousand. (OK, they’re not that unfortunate!)

    If tax returns are published, wherever there is a wealthy candidate standing against someone one a normal salary, the wealthy candidate will be at a disadvantage solely because of the way the tax system works. The answer is to even up the tax system, not so that those at the top are subject to higher notional rates than the rest of us, but so that they at least pay a similar proportion of their income.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Indeed with the left it is nearly always about hypocrisy – be it private schools, hand in the till, fiddling expenses or tax avoidance.

      Indeed to be left wing, surely almost invariably, makes one hypocritical. One law for the masses, one for the loony lefty rulers with their own M4 car lanes and the like. We want to look after the poor but certainly do not ever want to have to mix with them seems to be their motto.

    • Bob
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      If Ken were not a Labour Party member and member of the Champaign Socialists, the BBC would have ripped him to shreds over such rank hypocrisy. The issue would have dominated every news bulletin.

      More confirmation as if it were needed that the BBC is a virtual subsidiary of the Labour Party.

      • Posted April 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        100% correct. (except it’s champagne)

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        Indeed the double standards of the BBC are a total outrage anything unpleasant is always described as being “right wing” by them and they hound anyone who wants to cut the state sector down to a sensible size.

        The real & very dangerous evils I see come the very left wing & totally undemocratic EU, aided very much by the BBC who give them cover every day.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      It is not the fault of the tax system that the wealthy candidate chose to avoid paying as much tax as possible. The wealthy have no one to blame but themselves for their own greed.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        It is not greed it is usually the desire to use the money wisely rather than let the state simply waste it as it their style.

        The rich have all they need already anyway and they have also shown they know how to use capital – why take it off them it is clearly counter productive.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    It is the hypocrisy of politicians – do as I say not as I do – that has focused attention on their tax affairs. No doubt similar themes could be developed about education, health, transport…..Having witnessed the excuse for a mayoral debate on Newsnight earlier this week it was brought home to me once again what a dreadful pair Johnson and Livingstone are. Perhaps it is time for Londoners to look more carefully at the candidates from smaller parties or independents. Surely they want something better than the Conservative “buffoon” or the Labour “cheeky chappie”?

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      The conservative “buffoon” is clearly the better man for the job and by miles – whatever his faults.

  7. alan jutson
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    John

    You are right, the ability to do the job should be the most important aspect of any candidate up for election.

    Unfortunately, most people elected in the past couple of decades have proved totally incapable of even looking like they know what they are doing, and the fact that many were caught troughing it for years on expenses, and acting more like tax funded property speculators for personal gain, than representing their constituants, has meant that we now have an overreaction, and a backlash to anyone seeking to be the peoples representitives.

    Yes I am fully aware that the rules have now been changed, and things with regards to expenses are perhaps now different, but until politicians earn trust by what they do, rather than what they say, then a large percentage of the population will never trust them, and will want them to prove they are squeeky clean first and foremost.

    A simple tax stystem, and a list of fair allowances would be better for everyone, including politicians.

    I have some sympathy for anyone who now wishes to stand for public office, but the past holders of such positions only have themselves to blame for the situation they now find themselves in.

  8. Antisthenes
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    This spat between Boris and Ken is as I understand it about hypocrisy and tax just happens to be subject that Ken is being hypocritical about. The left aided by the idiot MSM has deflected criticism away from Ken by flying off at a tangent and making tax disclosure the issue when it is patently not. Just another example of obfuscation, misinformation and spin being used to bamboozle which brings up a different controversy that is being blown up out of all proportion. An example of an irrelevance being used to mask an unpalatable truth all so common in today’s politics. Is it any wonder that political parties and politicians are held in such low esteem. Truly the left have a lot to answer for as they are the main inventors and proponents of this form chicanery.

  9. Brian A
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I accept the cogent arguments you make against disclosing the tax affairs of those seeking public office. However, there seemed to me an interesting observation from the disclosures made by the mayoral candidates for London, namely, the large amount of income tax paid by Boris Johnson. If people were able to see that wealthy individuals were paying through their income taxes enough, in Johnson’s case, to pay for, say, half a dozen front line teachers or nurses then high earners might in future receive less negative media attention. Much current comment is focused on the morality of legal tax avoidance rather than the large sums high earners bring to the Treasury.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that high earners don’t bring much to the treasury because they avoid paying so much tax. Most contribute the same amount as someone earning a much lower salary.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        You clearly do not understand the numbers. HMRC are hugely dependent on the few rich, it is only from the rich that they profit at all. The make a loss on most taxpayers.

  10. Cliff. Wokingham.
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Every person’s tax affairs should remain private.

    It must be remembered that so much of this outrage and obcession with who’s doing what, is driven by the media. All too often we hear about anger and outrage and a call for this and that…..The public often couldn’t care less, it is the media that drives this. The media are no longer happy to report the news, thay want to drive it and make it to further their own political agenda.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Would this also apply to the sex lives of MP’s campaigning with an anti homosexual or prostitution agenda who are then found out to be homosexual or users of prostitutes? None of our business?

      • Cliff. Wokingham
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Bazman:

        You raise an interesting point. I think we should allow politicians and indeed, everyone else to keep their tax affairs private.
        Avoidance is legal, even aggressive avoidance, whatever that is. Everyone has used some form of avoidance at some time be it taking out an ISA or using gift aid; these perfectly legal actions are tax avoidance.
        What the business secretary and the media have managed to do very well, relying on the British trait of envy towards those that have done well for themselves, is to fog the boundaries of tax avoidance and tax evasion; only the latter is against the law.
        If the government wish to stop avoidance, then they need to change the tax regulations and rules to make those measures evasion. Much of the problem is that tax rules are too complex and that opens the door to being creative inorder to get around them. Tax in our country is also far too high and this in itself act as an incentive to try to avoid paying a penny more than is actually required.

        If an MP tries to evade tax, then that would be in the public domain following any prosecution and it is at that point, the MP’s tax affairs become public but, that is his choice as he chose to evade tax.

        Regarding prostitution and homosexuality; one is legal and should remain private unless he choses to go public about it, the other is a crime and will be in the public domain.

        There is much hypocrisy in politics at the moment but I don’t think we should have a system like they have in the states where everything is declared up front including taxation.

        I feel there should be a general rule of “being in the public interest” when real hypocisy is exposed, say someone banging on against private education but sending their own children to a private school.

        I think people know where the line is drawn and instinctively knows if a public figure is taking the mick.

        • uanime5
          Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          The tax law is complete because the wealthy and large companies lobby for tax exceptions that benefit them. The more people who lobby the more complex the law becomes.

          People will always avoid paying their taxes no matter how high or low it is. Some wealthy individuals pay themselves through companies so they only pay CGT (28%), rather than paying income tax and NI (52%). Lowering taxes to 45% or even 40% will not suddenly make these people want to pay more taxes.

          Neither prostitution nor homosexuality is a crime. While it’s an offence to solicit customers it’s not illegal to be a prostitute or have sex with one (though being a pimp is illegal). Though homosexuality used to be a crime, then was considered a mental illness, it is now legal.

          • Cliff. Wokingham.
            Posted April 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            No matter whether groups or individuals lobby for loopholes, the government could, if they wanted to, remove any loophole they choose.

            If a loophole is there, then it is there to be used. If someone can legally organise their affairs so they reduce their total tax liabilities, then they’d be daft not to do so. I would not ask HMRC to take away my personal allowance, for example, just to pay more tax. I prefer to keep as much of my own money as I can legally and spend it as I see fit. I wish to keep as much as I can so as not to fund silly projects so loved by this and the previous government. I spend my own money better than any of our governments, be that local, national or Brussels.

            Now, I know the actual act of prostitution is not an offence but, offering services in a public place is. If an MP, or anyone else, went kerb crawling looking for a prostitute, then that is an offence and, that would come into the public domain once it went to court. There are many other offences surrounding prostitution and many gangs use the proceeds of prostitution to fund other criminal activities.
            The main point I was making was merely the fact that if MPs commit crimes, it goes into the public domain. I still believe people are inocent until proven guilty and it is wrong to expect anyone to prove their inocence especially prior to any crime having taken place which, forcing disclosure would in effect do.

            Homosexuality was a criminal offence right up until fairly recently. Speaking as a former psychiatric nurse, homosexuality was removed from the abnormal psychology textbooks by about 1920. Some sections of society still feel it is an illness that can be cured but, they are very much in the minority.

            People will pay tax if they think it is reasonable, the problem in this country is that more and more of us think, following over a decade of nu labour’s tax and spend policies, it is now unreasonable and that too much of the tax take is wasted. Mr Brown always thought throwing money at a problem was the right thing to do, rather than looking at how the money was being spent. Value for money is a concept that appears to be alien to many socialists.

            Why do socialists always want to drag people down, rather than raise everyone up; is it simple envy?

        • rose
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          A very good comment from Cliff, which says it all.

          • Bazman
            Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

            Cliffs largely believes the fantasy of austerity in the form of cutting public spending will somehow allow the private sector to flourish. This was discredited in the 1930’s and is being discredited and no doubt crying about the socially wasteful and dangerous levels of unemployment, especially amongst the young.
            Much of the capitalism he believes in really is just externalising costs Costs like Pollution, low wages, poor housing and little health and safety for the people this externalising production and services often brings to society or societies in other countries supplying the products or services and in many cases to user is loaded with extra costs.
            Maybe he thinks that anyone wanting good housing, job security, health and safety and in some cases abroad a clean water supply cheaper longer lasting products, better services, and a pollution free environment is just envious?
            The point that tax will be paid if reasonable is a bit like saying
            companies want to pay ‘reasonable’ rates. For your information Cliff it is ‘reasonable’ to believe that many do not want or believe they should pay anything and I am of no doubt many believe this to be the case with tax. The race to the bottom lies fairly and squarely in your capitalist fantasy camp.
            Ram it.

        • Bazman
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Prostitution is not illegal. Soliciting however is. You could pay a woman you know to come round to your house for sex every Wednesday for example. Might raise a few eyebrows, but you or her could be not be prosecuted. What she would bill you for and how tax would be paid I would not know. A very expensive rate for specialist massage or just ‘services rendered’? You are telling us that this like homosexuality is a private matter that is not in the public interest of a politician campaigning on an anti homosexual and prostitution morality platform?

  11. Bob
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    This issue has only arisen because Ken Livingstone was banged to rights over his hypocrisy, by preaching that “rich b@5t@rd5″ should not avoid paying tax while he himself is doing exactly that. He then tried to deflect attention from his tax arrangements by his usual mud slinging antics by claiming that Boris is doing the same, which is clearly a lie.

    Ken should just confess his hypocrisy and climb down.

    He cannot convince me that his wife’s input into Silveta Ltd justifies her 50% share of the divi, and he already admitted that his so called “employees” were working for his political campaign, not for the business (or is it the same thing? :) ).

    The Electoral Commission and HMRC should do their job and investigate Livingston’s (actions-ed) before the election to give Labour a chance to find an alternative less mendacious candidate.

    Reply: This site has no reason to query his payments to his wife, nor the legality of his tax affairs. As others have said, the question is his judgement in making a speech condemning those who arrange their affairs to pay less tax legally.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Boris Johnston or Ken Livingstone. Where do you want it? On the head or in the head?

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Having seen Livingstone perhaps his wife would be a better candidate for the position.

  12. Susan
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I am sorry Mr. Redwood on this one I will have to disagree.

    You see when a Chancellor in a budget, and pardon me if I get this slightly wrong, declares “I regard tax evasion and indeed agressive tax avoidance as morally repugnant” it then becomes incumbent on the members of that Government representing that view to prove they do not indulge in this kind of behaviour. Before this event I would have said tax returns are a private affair. So it is rather a case of “you made your bed you must lie in it”

    It is similar to the Ken Livingstone case, although it seems what he did with regard to his tax affairs is not illegal, it was his stated position on tax avoidance which has given him the label of hypocrite. George Osborne has put the Government in rather the same position by saying agressive tax avoidance is morally repugnant. It is therefore natural for the public to want reassurance that members of the Government are not involved in this practice.

    • Andy
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Susan,

      I disagree with you. It does not become ‘incumbent on the members of that Government . . . to prove they do not indulge in this kind of behaviour’. No members of the government have indulged in any such behaviour as far as I am aware, or indeed as far as YOU are aware. They are entirely innocent. You should not have to prove you didn’t do something. This is Britain remember.

      As to Livingstone his troubles are that he is a blatant hypocrite. He talks about ‘rich bastards’ who shouldn’t be allowed to “vote in a British election, let alone sit in Parliament, unless they pay their full share of tax”. The only reason for him to use a service company is to reduce his tax liability, which is not illegal, but then again nor was what Barclays Bank were doing recently illegal. Read the acres of bile on that one.

      But to me all this about the tax position of Livingstone obscures a far more troubling fact: the source of the money. A chunk of it came from Press Tv (then makes allegations about this-ed) What is someone like Livingstone doing in bed with such (people-ed) ? That poor judgement makes him unfit to hold office.

      • Susan
        Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        Andy,

        It is your prerogative to disagree, that is how we know we are in Britain.

        In my opinion Mr Osborne has put himself in exactly the same position as Ken Livingstone by declaring that a perfectly legal activity such as tax avoidance is morally repugnant. Therefore, it is now important for the Government to publish their tax returns to demonstrate that they too are not being hypocrites by stating one thing for public consumption and doing something else in private.

        Don’t get me wrong I have little time for Ken Livingstone, but this has more to do with the man and his policies than his tax returns.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          He was indeed a compete idiot to use the phrase “morally repugnant”.
          This for something that is often highly moral and far better than letting the state waste the money (as they usually do).

        • Barry
          Posted April 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          Susan

          You make the point well. But we are left with the suspicion of “do as I say rather than I do”. Having made his remarks, he must come clean with details that remove the unlikely suspicion that politicians are hypocrites or at best economical with the truth.

      • John C
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        “it then becomes incumbent on the members of that Government representing that view to prove they do not indulge in this kind of behaviour”

        With all due respect Andy that proposal in nonsense.

        So, the justice secretary brings in a bill to drastically alter sentences for paedophiles. Does he/she then have to “prove they do not indulge in this kind of behaviour”? How about extending this to all the MPs that vote for the bill?

        • John C
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          Sorry Andy, I should have addressed the post to Susan.

        • Susan
          Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

          John C,

          Not a very good analogy John, because most of the public are not paedophiles to my knowledge but most people pay tax. Mr Osborne made a stand in public against agressive tax avoidance by calling it morally repugnant. Now if by chance, as in the case of Mr. Livinstone, George Osbornes or other members of Governments tax affairs become know and they have indulged in these activities, they will then becomes as much of hypocrites in the eyes of the public as Mr. Livinstone. There is nothing the public dislike more than this kind of hypocrisy. We have seen this many times and believe me the press will be looking out for this kind of detail now.

          Mr. Osborne has therefore put himself in exactly the same position as Mr. Livingstone by calling a perfectly legal activity, as it is at the moment, such as tax avoidance as morally repugnant. It is therefore very important that he proves beyond doubt that he and others of the Government have not indulged in this behaviour.

          It would be wise therefore, for the reasons I have given for him to publish members of the Governments tax returns. To be fair to Mr. Osborne he seems willing to do so.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      I’ll agree with Susan.

      Although in an ideal world politicians’ private financial matter should remain private… I suspect that the public have long memories for hypocrisy.

      Politicians who support comprehensive education yet send their children to private schools, inflated expense claims, donations by lobbyists, not turning up for debates, ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance and promoting family values whilst ‘playing away’. It may be partly down to media elaborating headlines, but ‘do as I say, not as I do’ wins no friends and will be punished by ordinary people if an opportunity presents itself.

  13. Matthew
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    No I don’t think that tax returns should be published, it would be the start of a slippery slope as it wouldn’t stop at tax.

    Next MP’s would have to provide references from previous wives or husbands, declarations on the church that they go to, or religious beliefs.

    The objective is to elect good MP’s not saints.

  14. David
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    John

    I disagree with you on this one.

    In Sweden, Finland and Norway – all tax returns are public information. They are published each year for the whole population.

    It is no big deal over in those countries.

    We should be brave enough to do the same.

    • sm
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      I agree with transparency. once in place it wont be a big deal, unless of course it is manifestly highlights a problem, hither to not in the public view.

      I suspect there are a few wheezes which would get the sunlight they deserve and probably then disappear without any further regulation.

    • The Realist
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes – all of them wholly socialist countries!

      • rose
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        And all with tiny close knit largely homogeneous populations at the time these rules were made. Comparisons with the the Nordic countries are fanciful, as fanciful as comparing the USA to Japan.

    • Cliff. Wokingham
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Why? Just because another country does something it doesn’t mean its right does it?

      Using the logic of your argument, should we cut thief’s hands off here, just because they do it in some Arab states?

  15. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    An amazing amount of accord on #bbcaq last night.

    Surely all this could be sorted out by ensuring that Nick Clegg isn’t allowed to water down the #recall of MP’s in the new bill he is about to push through

  16. oldtimer
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I agree with your analysis and conclusions.

    The fracas concerning Mr Livingstone appears to stem from his demanding higher taxes on the “rich” while taking advantage of existing tax rules to shelter income in a company and pay himself via dividends. This is entirely legitimate but does not sit well with his other pronouncements and makes him sound a hypocrite.

    What is required is a simpler, more even tax system that does not encourage this type of behaviour. Unfortunately this seems beyond the comprehension of the Chancellor who has missed the opportunity to simplify taxes provided by three budgets.

    • Bob
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      @Oldtimer

      I think you’ll find that Livingstone was criticizing wealthy people for using perfectly legal tax planning measures (like he does himself).

      The thing is that Ken appears to be sailing very close to the wind as far as tax law and electoral rules are concerned.

  17. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Mr Livingstone was obliged to publish details of his financial affairs because he had a lot to say about tax avoidance by other people. It was all about hypocrisy.

  18. David John Wilson
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The amount of tax that candidates pay for the reasons that you point out is of very little interest and should be private. What is worrying is the amount of tax that they avoid. It seems extremely wrong to me that anyone should be allowed to set up a company into which their lecture fees etc. are paid in order to avoid tax. It is equally wrong that senior members of local councils should have their salaries paid into such companies by the simple mechanism of their employment being as consultants.

    These companies form the basis of a huge number of legal tax avoidance fiddles. These vary between simple things like owning the house in which the person lives to being a huge investment vehicle. It should be made illegal to pay into and hold any earned income in a private company, where ever that company may be based.

    Maybe they need to employ accountants, secretaries(wives) etc. to manage their money but at the very worst these should be allowed as expenses against their income tax. However if that happened I would expect to be able to claim the management fees levied on my investments in a similar way.

    There are a few cases where this can be argued to be acceptable to avoid double taxation. However that simply means that there needs to be a way of reclaiming double taxation.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Too true. For far to long the Government has allowed people to avoid their taxes using companies. I wonder how many middle income earners will have to start avoiding their taxes this way before the Government realises how much it’s costing them.

  19. libertarian
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Once again the media and politicians have managed to change the whole perception of something. This argument started based on hypocrisy with Livingston ranting about tax minimisation methods whilst systematically appearing to use them himself.

    This has now morphed into a tax avoidance argument and who pays how much.

    Well quite frankly I pay more tax than all of them and I’m sick of doing it and having it squandered by idiot politicians with no, nil, zilch experience of business ( this obviously is not aimed at JR). I want the argument to be NOT about how much tax was paid, but about 1) How it was wasted 2) How we can MINIMIZE tax payments for ALL our citizens

    By the way Nigel Farage is an MEP and the EU politburo has made sure that they don’t have to pay any tax on Euro 91,000 of their expenses already, so it would be rather pointless looking at MEP tax returns as they barely pay any !!!!

    • sm
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I can sympathise with the predicament.

      JR hinted about definitions of tax avoidance issues:

      Some define,

      1) Avoidance – as the use of the tax law to get a benefit not specifically intended.

      2) Aggressive avoidance – the use of artificial structures or steps which do not have a commercial or economic purpose other than largely the tax avoided or delayed indefiniteley.

      3) Compliance use of the law as exactly as intended. e.g ISA,Pension relief.

      4) Evasion – basic fraud.

      Now Judges have to interpret the law and that leads to judge made law. If judges were given clear directions on interpretation, 2) and 1) could be largely mitigated made uneconomic.

      Otherwise ask yourself why are the intentions of parliament not made clearly enough to enable judges to be more certain of how to interpret law? One cannot be too questioning and cynical in some cases about these things.

      Now overlay this on top of the lack of proper the EU, ECHR, representative democracy, recall, referendums, party lists.

      IMHO Transparency is not a problem, particularly in ‘AT Risk’ areas.

  20. Nick
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    The first is it would reinforce the tendency of elections to be about individuals and their personal lives rather than about public policy and what they will do for the electors. The media fasciantion with the exchanges between Boris and Ken over personal tax and income is crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London.

    =============

    So hold elections on the issues, not the candidate. You won’t. We aren’t allowed a vote on any issue, bar the method of selecting a candidate, or to vote on more politicians.

    For example, give us the vote on taxation.

    However, I have no sympathy. It’s a case of they don’t like it up ‘em, Capt Mannering.

    You’ve been snooping on us. Now you don’t like it when the tables are turned.

    How about compensation for all those people whom the government hacked without a valid warrant? Going rate – News of the World levels of cash.

    How about doing the same with your tax return for the government accounts? Reveal the true debts, pensions included?

    Transparency? Only when it suits.

  21. Nick
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    If politicians allow the confusion of bankers coordinating funding with the BoE printing money to buy govt bonds (giving their banking mates easy profits), again people will naturally wonder about who is upto what

    =============

    They are only doing this because they don’t want to say outright they are printing money. Otherwise that’s the only way of funding the deficit.

    1. They force the banks to increase capital.
    2. They force the banks to put capital in to Gilts.
    3. No one is going to invest new money in banks whilst the government is treating them like dog shit and putting penal rates of tax on them. Including the ones who protected themselves against the mess.

    So more capital = less lending, unless you get more money into the banks.

    So you’re right. The mechanism is laundering cash to fund the deficit with money skimmed off to deal with the increases in capital forced on the banks.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Nick, yes, and whilst the Govt lacks transparency in (the most) key areas, it is not surprising that some of the electorate / media will become generally suspicious.

  22. Dan Course
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    However all the reasons for why not are ,”because the public wouldn’t understand”. Isn’t this a chance to champion better understanding of personal assets to the general public. And it can come from government not martin’s money tips.

    Someone being prudent with their tax affairs is a good thing, not something to be shamed.

  23. outsider
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    As a big fan of transparency, it is a great sadness to me that it is so often and so predictably abused to the extent that I sometimes think we cannot be trusted with the truth. Some instances:

    1)Leading politicians of the same party cannot honestly debate their views in public because they will be accused a massive splits and internal strife. In effect, we provoke them to lie.
    2) Transparency in company accounting , designed to help proper analysis, is sensationalised into disaster, particularly with formal pension fund deficits, which naturally rise and fall with share prices. This has unnaturally accelerated the demise of guaranteed company pensions.
    3) Just as in a company accounts and prospectuses, risk factors are rightly drawn up for changes in government policy, such as the health reforms. But Government was virtually forced to keep them secret because it knew that opponents would portray the risks, however unlikely, as predictions.
    4) Transparency of political contributions, far from “cleaning up” the image of politics, has led to ever more accusations of sleaze.

    Sadly, therefore, I agree that candidates’ tax returns should not routinely be exposed. They would just cause more mischief. The London mayoral election is a legitimate exception because one candidate took a platform of condemning the proper minimisation of tax liabilities that he practised himself.

  24. MickC
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    The answer is no, candidates should NOT have to reveal their tax returns.

    However, Osborne has now effectively “criminalised” tax avoidance which was a perfectly legitimate activity to stop the State stealing the citizen’s money. This was supported by most MP’s.

    That being the situation there is a perfectly valid case for saying that our representatives should publish their own tax returns-but a better case for saying that their expenses claime should be published automatically (but that certainly won’t happen).

  25. REPay
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The state’s relation to an individual is and should be private. The President of the US has executive power in a way no UK politician does and needs to show they are not bought by third parties. The desire to see someone’s tax affairs is strong amongst the prurient – the media and, perhaps, I suspect they are work outing whether it will benefit, embarrass or hurt them – The Labour Party.

    I fear disgruntled HMRC officials whistleblowing on public figures if this debate is not closed down.

    PS I have a friend who works for a private bank and he assures me that many senior Labour figures (he does not name them as he is a man of discretion) are extremely prudent in not wanting to be a burden to the taxpayers with their legitimate use of tax shelters.

  26. uanime5
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the solution is to not only publish how much taxes candidates have paid but also how much they’ve avoided and what methods they’ve used to avoid taxes. This way the public make an accurate judgement on the moral character of this candidate. After all can someone set up a company to avoid paying income tax really be trusted to act altruistically.

    Regarding the policies of candidates given that most MPs just follow party politics it’s large irrelevant asking them what their policies are.

    Also I find it rather worrying that the Government is turning failing schools into academias, even though academias can hire teachers that don’t have any higher education or a teaching qualification. Most likely this will lead to academies hiring whoever is cheapest, no matter how unqualified they are, to save money; resulting in academies becoming little more than giant daycare centres that produce children who aren’t educated enough to perform menial labour.

    • libertarian
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Ha I’ve avoided paying 100,000’s of pounds of income tax with a really neat wheeze. I refuse to earn over £150,000 per year. What a complete dimwit you are uanime5 !!!

      I guess every one with a tax free pension and every one with an ISA should be reported as being evil. Your approach to money and your understanding of the economic systems we live under are rediculous

      • uanime5
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        This might shock you but it’s only tax avoidance or evasion if you legally have to pay the tax. So your neither avoiding or evading the top rate of tax by earning minimum wage or by being unemployable.

        It seems that I have a better understanding of economics than you.

        • Cliff. Wokingham.
          Posted April 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

          I know you like semantics but, if you legally have to pay the tax and you don’t, than that is evasion; a criminal offence.

          If you can legally avoid paying it by organising your affairs in a sensible, tax efficient way, then it is legal and obviously, then you don’t have to pay the tax because it is not due. No offence and no crime. Do you feel those that put their money into ISAs should be pursued for the tax they avoided?

    • outsider
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      Dear Uanime5,
      Who cares if ministers act altruistically? I feel sure than Gordon Brown and Edward Heath acted altruistically. The interest of citizens, consumers and producers ultimately matter far more than the self-perceived personal virtue of the Prime Minister.

      • uanime5
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        I would rather all MPs act altruistically, rather than blindly follow the ministers.

        Also some MPs seems to be more interested in feathering their own nests than the interest of citizens, consumers, or producers.

  27. Jim
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Problem is SOME MP’s are paying through Personal Companys which is at a lower rate .

  28. David
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Another week, another media-inspired hysteria-wagon in our daft country. On what basis can anybody, regardless of their career, be forced to make public their financial affairs?

    I await the inevitable legislation now that The Boy George, with approval of his hollow boss, has declared it to be a jolly good idea.

    Mr Redwood, as usual, provides the rational voice in the sea of opportunists.

  29. Jonathan
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Dear John,

    You didn’t answer Jonathan Dimbleby’s question to you about whether you would mind publishing your own tax details.

    Will you? This is not the last you will hear of this.

    Voter

    Reply: No I will not pubish them unless it becomes a requirement to do so.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      To reply – nor should you unless you want too. I personally would cap personal taxes at about £200K of tax PA then many might be proud to confirm they pay the maximum of about 20 times the benefits they and the average person receive.

      • uanime5
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        A tax cap it a tax cut for the very wealthy in all but name. Another example of the politics of greed where the wealthy demand that they should only have to pay a smaller proportion of their income in taxes than the average person.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

          Why should the wealthy pay a £1M PA for public services worth perhaps £10K at best?

          • sm
            Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Where did the £1m come from?

            The very £ is a promise to pay based on what? Why should society allow limited liability companies or differential taxation?
            What other opportunities has society afforded you to exploit the economy for mutual benefit?

            I think the French Revolution answers your questions.

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    People don’t object to Mitt Romney – or any British politician – minimising their taxes by exploiting loopholes. What they object to is those loopholes existing in the first place. Why do politicians make so many concessions, bribe and bemedal so many different groups in the electorate? Is it that they are seeking to do good by their interventions or is just that they like the feeling of power.

    Let us make a deal with politicians – we won’t snoop on you if you don’t snoop on us.

  31. david
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    If anyone is arrogant and conceited enough to put themselves up for public office, i.e. I’m so wonderful I should be running the country, then they should open up their entire life to the voters so we can make an informed judgement about them, right down to their personal habits, there is nothing that should be hidden from us.

    • Bob
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      @david

      “they should open up their entire life to the voters so we can make an informed judgement about them”

      That would definitely put “Shameless” Livingstone at a major disadvantage.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      … so increasing the arrogant and conceited in positions of power/representation and in so doing reducing the number of capable.

      I’d prefer the capable wanting to stand for election, without their own individual and prospective party’s fear about their private lives becoming public.

  32. Christian Wright
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Of course those who think themselves worthy to rule our affairs and who put themselves forward as candidates to do so, should be required to offer full disclosure evincing their own rectitude and civic probity.

    John Redwood could get the ball rolling by disclosing his tax records, now.

    His argument that his records and those of other MPs should be exempted from public scrutiny because he and they are not as powerful as the President of the United States, is risible.

    Rightly or wrongly, that reluctance of career politicians like John to come clean on their handling of their tax affairs will inevitably lead some to wonder what it is they have to hide.

    The expenses scandal has confirmed that avarice is a characteristic widely shared among the political class, and no amount of self certifications from pols that they are honest and splendid chaps is going to satisfy the public’s requirement that they provide FULL DISCLOSURE of their tax doings.

    That is one of the prices of access to the levers of power in a true, modern democracy.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. It’s not to much to ask that MPs behave in a moral manner and pay their taxes.

  33. Sarah
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    John,

    For once I totally disagree with you. All MPs should publish their last three years tax returns and do so for every year they hold office. This is the group of individuals who levy taxes on us and therefore I believe very strongly there is a legitimate public interest in candidates tax affairs. It should just be routine.

    If they are advocates of low tax, low state involvement like yourself then taking advantage of tax avoidance may well be arguable and defensible. In Ken’s case in light of his remarks it clearly isn’t.

    The equation is that basic. Probity is all.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      If all MP’s do I bet non will declare the “benefit in kind” of rather heavily subsidised catering and alcohol in the house of commons.

      • The Realist
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        The cost of the so-called subsidy is to alleviate the excessive costs of running the Palace of Westminster, the hours etc.

  34. rose
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Enoch here: MPs should only have to declare allegiance to the Queen.

  35. Posted April 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with your comments including you second paragraph. Your three main reasons given against, are absolutelly spot on. We expect our MP’s, even those we do not vote for, yet once in that House of Commons and have sworn a solemn Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown, that represents all of us, we expect them to look after their own affairs and Govern this Country according to its long standing Common law Constitution. That after all is what we pay our taxes for. No treaty should be ratified that does not comply with our Constitution.

    What I would like to see when campaigning whether Nationally, New Regionally or locally, is if any promises are made, they would HAVE to be kept fully or the person could be kicked out and never allowed to stand again.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Given that our constitution isn’t contained in a written document it’s very difficult to determine if any treaty complies with our constitution because no one knows exactly what it entails.

      Also one of the main roles of an MP is to replace the common law with statutory laws. I suspect they treat any Common law Constitution the same way.

      • Posted April 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        Our present Common law Constitution is all we have got. Parliament can only undo what Parliament did, and parts of our Common law Constitution remain because there was no parliament at the time that they were written.

        It has been suggested that a new written Constitution and/or Bill of Rights etc should be written, and GOSH, GOLLY a referendum will be held for the people to accept the wonderful new, written ‘just for the loverly people in the UK to vote a “YES” for’.

        As soon as that deed has been done, all will realise that the EU over-rides all the new. Ask yourself what makes our laws so old when most on the continent are newly written, and then think of the 1939-45 war.

        It costs a great deal of money to bring forth a case of Treason and to win, and as long as people have tried, they cannot be found wanting in trying to do their duty according to law-which REALLY truly is their duty to do according to their solemn sworn Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown, a Crown that represents all the people in this Land.

        Anyone born here in the UK remember, it is as if they have already sworn allegiance to the British Crown. Some never ever so swear all their lives, but never-the-less if born here, it is as if they had, and may also be called up in war to fight for their King and Country.

  36. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Should they publish tax returns ? I don’t know.

    However, I feel that anyone who wishes to have an influence on Govt policy ought to pay their taxes in full.

    Especially pop stars.

    • The Realist
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Why?

      • uanime5
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        No representation without taxation.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        Realist – Because the likes of Bob Geldof wish to tell our Govt to divert our taxes to Africa.

        It’s a bit ripe of him to off-shore his finances while doing so.

        • rose
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          More than a bit ripe, E-K. I would say a bit rich. And his own country of origin has very low rates of corporation tax and has had no tax at all for people in the arts – authors, playwrights etc.

  37. Colin Hart
    Posted April 8, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    It would only work if wives, husbands and civil partners of MPs were also required to publish their tax returns. Osborne must know this which is why this just a bit of political posturing and won’t happen.

    • sm
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      One small step began a great journey.

  38. James Reade
    Posted April 8, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    How about that? An MP argues that they shouldn’t be more transparent – fancy that!

    I think your last sentence says it all – *if* they acted lawfully. If you act lawfully, why should you have any problem with it? All the rest is smokescreen.

    I had thought there for a moment John you were different – you were an MP who wanted to try and break that disconnect that’s been growing between voters and MPs, and hence might champion ways to achieve that.

    Instead no, a few weak arguments and let’s carry on as we were.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Perhaps the issue is one of “intent” vs “outcome”?

      The intention might well be to confirm that poilticians are not behaving unethically/hypocritically but the danger is that the outcome might be a misrepresentation of a politician’s actions and thus a distraction from the actual ability of the politician to carry out the role.

      E.g. Should one wonder about the London Mayor’s ability to optimize the city’s expenditure if he cannot even reduce his own tax bill? There are probably far better indications of the Mayor’s ability/achievement but the focus on these will be lost from the media’s attention. I would like to think evidence and argumentation are the name of the game, rather than a qualifying level of ‘whiteness’.

      I think the focus on taxation should be simplification so that possible disparities don’t occur. I also think for the electorate and politicians alike their should be privacy. It is possible to have not broken the law, to be not ashamed of one’s own actions but to still want privacy – often because of how publicity could affect others.

      • rose
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Hear, hear, Caterpillar. What honourable gentleman would want to go into public life nowadays?

    • The Realist
      Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      No it is not – totally unfounded statements as usual Mr Reade!

      • uanime5
        Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        The lack of any real argument from you leads me to believe that Mr Reade is correct regarding how MPs seems to be against transparency.

  39. The Realist
    Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    No they should not.

  40. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    All of this tax declaration stuff is total nonsense. Let us have some really democratic reforms.

    (1) “None of the above” is a legitimate preference, should be recorded as such and the total number of such non-votes should be declared at the count.
    (2) “I don’t wish to be represented at all” is a legitimate preference of anarchists and the total number of such non-votes should be declared at the count.
    (3) Each candidate should declare on the ballot paper the gross amount per annum that he/she would want to do the job of MP. This amount would cover remuneration, staff and office space, personal accommodation, day-to-day expenses and budgets for political research and fact finding missions, with no extras allowed for inflation or anything else. Candidates would be allowed – and indeed encouraged – to give a breakdown in their election addresses.

    Personally, I would not necessarily look for the minimum cost. I would look for a package that included a good amount for political research so that front benchers could not give back benchers the mushroom treatment.

  41. Martin
    Posted April 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    MPs should be free to keep their UK tax affairs private. Anything offshore should be public.

    I’m more concerned that MPs outside interests should documented rather than how they are taxed in the U.K.

  42. lojolondon
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Of course public employees should have to publish all their financial affairs. The straightforward reason is because the HMRC does not work honestly with them.
    We have seen that private citizens are caught by IR35 regulations and fined heavily, meanwhile,(some names examples of public sector employees and politicians-ed). are clearly allowed to get away with tax evasion (not avoidance).
    Boris earned 1,5m and paid tax of 600k, that is entirely right and proper, and no-one begrudges him his earnings because he has paid tax.

    Of course, MP’s voting themselves special tax loopholes to enable house flipping and exclusion from the congestion charge zone etc. do you no favours at all.

  43. Tony Houghton
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Of course you are right John. However, this call for the publication of Ministers tax returns, I think, stems from Nick Clegg’s support, saying this is LibDem policy, George Osborne’s point about tax evasion by some of the rich and, in some way, from the culture of envy that has developed over the last few months about rich bankers, rich toffs running the country and the envy of large bonuses when the average man is feeling more than the pinch.

    Also, the average bloke does not understand or does not wish to understand that cutting the higher rate of tax from 50% to 45% may have a larger impact on any possible economic recovery, as well filling the pockets of the rich.

    The motto should be ‘Calm yourself dears!.’ It will probably all work out alright in the end.

    Tony

    • Bazman
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Do enlighten us Tom on the cut to the 50% tax. I wish to understand how filling the pockets of the rich further will will help the economy. Will it be by the trickle down effect for instance? Or will it be by attracting and stopping people on large incomes from leaving the country. A culture of envy by the average man in the street of toffs running the country and large bonuses and tax evasion by rich bankers? Never! Us plebs know our place Sir. It’s good that these people have this wealth as they know how to live the burden of riches. Drag us sort down it would. I mean look at that bin man who won ten million. Winners should be vetted and given the right amount for their own good. Cough! Hack!

  44. John
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Ceasar’s wife.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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