Investing overseas

The latest debate about investing and tax has an added salaciousness because some of the investments concerned are abroad or “offshore”. The first thing to grasp is most overseas investments by UK savers are nothing to do with tax planning, but are undertaken to diversify the person’s investments and obtain income and gains from the success of foreign companies and countries.

Again let’s start with the MPs. The MP Pension Plan has substantial investments in foreign assets, like most company and government funded pension plans. These assets are not bought to save tax. The beneficiaries of the MP Pension Plan are enjoying complete tax relief on all the income and gains whilst the money stays in the fund anyway, so it makes no difference where the holdings are invested. For taxpayers saving money and investing abroad, again there is no tax advantage as long as they declare things honestly. If you buy a foreign investment from UK money outside a Pension Plan or ISA you have to pay full income tax and capital gains in the normal way on income and gains made.

Many UK people own unit trusts or Exchange Traded funds that provide them with ready made portfolios of shares. Many of these are based abroad. Under EU UCITs rules providing a legal framework for such funds most are set up in either Ireland or Luxembourg, two of the EU’s “tax havens”. All this is legal under EU and UK rules. UK holders of units or shares in these funds pay full UK tax on income as they earn it and gains when they take them. It is an interesting sidelight on how good the EU single market is for the City that most of these funds are resident outside the UK.

A minority of overseas arrangements are designed to allow rich people or companies to change tax jurisdictions. These could be tax evasion. The people involved need to take good advice and to declare what they are doing to the relevant authorities. The UK now has a requirement for people to register schemes prior to entering them. Any UK citizen and resident who withdraws a load of cash, takes it out of the country, and then invests it elsewehere without declaring the income and gains to the UK authorities is committing an offence and should traced and prosecuted. There are sophisticated electronic versions of the same thing which are also against the law.

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93 Comments

  1. Dame Rita Webb
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    Its silly to think that “offshore” investment is only of interest to the rich. Anyone who has worked in retail banking will tell that with the threshold for higher rate tax having being so low, many customers on relatively modest incomes would have been advised to take their money out of the UK. No expensive lawyers were required the pitch usually came from the teenage cashier. “if you keep your money here you are paying 40% tax on any return, transfer it to our branch in location X, it will grow mostly tax free and when you retire and bring it back you may only pay 20% tax or none at all. Would you like to see our financial advisor?’. Even middling building societies would have a place somewhere out of the UK tax system.

    Dave’s mistake was to keep making claims of the type that he was a member of the “sharp elbowed middle class”. Any switched on voter would realise that you cannot afford houses in Chipping Norton and Notting Hill on a MPs salary and what your wife brings in from the stationery shop. You should never pretend to be what you are not.

    Anyway it will be interesting to see if any journalists are digging around at the ownership structures of the investment portfolios of some Labour MPs. It would be unreal to believe that they do not have egg on their faces too.

    • Know-dice
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      I see it all as just jealousy from the “have nots”.

      I don’t care what CMD earns he has paid tax as required on income repatriated to this country, Corbyn is being completely ridiculous demanding that CMD comes to the House of Commons to explain his earning and tax payments.

      As has been said many times, the top 1% pay some 28% of tax receipts in this country, in my book a fair share of tax burden is 20% on income across the board and tax relief at around £11,000 also seems reasonable. The higher tax bands are just governmental theft…and can be self defecting in terms of real tax receipts…

      At a flat rate of 20% somebody earning £100,000 will already be paying more tax in real terms than somebody earning £20,000 and why shouldn’t they benefit from their extra income?

    • bigneil
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      I find it odd that out of 11m documents leaked from Panama, the number of English people revealed has been so few. Have the others ( there must be others ) with money in there, managed to get legal blocks on their names being revealed?

      Reply The UK is a relatively law abiding and compliant country, with checks on people trying to get money out of the country by banks/brokers/lawyers/accountants etc who are all under a duty to ensure their clients do not break the law. Remember as well that the Panama company says its clients complied with the relevant tax codes.

      • Mitchel
        Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        The Panama documents are a hack not a true leak;there will apparently not be full disclosure,like Wikileaks, just a stream of revelations designed to discredit those that the financiers of the project and their selected media outlets wish to target.

      • formula57
        Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Panama is, so I understand, not a particularly popular hub for the kind of activity reported and not by British nationals. When we get a similar leak from the one or more of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands we will see many more British names I expect.

        • acorn
          Posted April 11, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          Too true f57. The whole point of offshore tax havens is to allow foreign owners to set up tax-free, anonymous Trusts and Trust Companies, with little disclosure of the source of the assets, including no requirement to disclose beneficial owners. It has nothing to do with “investment overseas”. JR is just trying to do a snow job on you.

          The take-away is; it is a mechanism to hide assets from ex-wives and business partners you screwed out of their share of the ex-business.

          PS. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to get comments through moderation on this site; so, don’t be surprised if you don’t get to read my (free) pearls of wisdom.

          Reply I have made clear that taking money abroad to evade UK taxes is illegal and should be punished. Most overseas investment is not a tax dodge.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted April 12, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            As you will know there are “trusts” and there are “trusts”; for example “unit trusts” – or as they are now called OEICs – and “investment trusts”, are just collective investment schemes, particularly useful for small investors who want to get a diversified portfolio, albeit indirectly and at a cost, and entirely different from “trusts” set up for the benefit of children or other family members, and offshore “trusts” used as a shelter from UK taxation, whether legally or illegally; it just creates unnecessary and undesirable confusion to lump them all together and label them all as bad in the way the Labour party has been doing.

          • libertarian
            Posted April 17, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

            acorn

            For someone who is reasonably switched on about economics your post on Offshore “Tax Havens” is complete and total drivel. Get a grip.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Indeed investing offshore is very sensible, especially given the UK’s huge over taxation, over regulation, over complex taxation, high energy prices, huge PSBR, record trade deficit, hugely damaging wage controls, half baked sugar tax and all the endless waste by this government under the economically illiterate & morally repugnant Osborne. It makes even more sense when you see the even worse alternatives of Corbyn and McDonnell in waiting. Moving overseas perhaps even more sensible.

    The UK should make itself attractive to investors, the rich and hard working for a change, This by exiting the EU, replacing the complete failure and IHT ratter Osborne as soon as possible, simplifying and lowering tax rates and abolishing IHT, GAAR and the rest of Osborne’s socialist absurdities.

    Almost everyone would gain as a result of this the rich and poor alike.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Other things that would make the UK more attractive to inward investment would be:

      Selective immigration (on merit) rather than open door low skilled/paid immigration.
      A police force and criminal justice systems that actually deterred real crimes rather than chasing journalists, thought crimes and dead celebrities.
      A health system that was not totally dysfunctional
      An education system that was not quite so dire and did not augment further the large religious/cultural cleavages in society.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      Other things that would make the UK more attractive to inward investment would be:

      Selective immigration (on merit) rather than open door low skilled/low paid/or even crimal immigration.
      A police force and criminal justice systems that actually deterred real crimes rather than chasing journalists, thought crimes, motorist and dead celebrities.
      A health system that was not totally dysfunctional
      An education system that was not quite so dire and did not augment further the large religious/cultural cleavages in society.

  3. Javelin
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Everybody talks about income but overseas tax dodges use loans to pay money.

    Loans must be declared as well as income.

  4. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Investing overseas?

    EU subsidises the CHINESE steel which is decimating British industry

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/659627/EU-loaning-millions-Chinese-steel-companies-40000-UK-jobs

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      “Former Environment Secretary John Redwood said last night: “This is another example of how British people do not want to see their money spent.

      “The EU is supposed to be careful who it lends money to, and lending to a foreign government in order to create competition to British industry is not what we had in mind.””

      But these loans are not to create competition to British industry, they are to help save the planet from catastrophic climate change, and really the EIB is just doing what the EU member state governments have said it should do:

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:12012E/TXT

      “Article 191

      (ex Article 174 TEC)

      1. Union policy on the environment shall contribute to pursuit of the following objectives:

      – preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment,

      – protecting human health,

      – prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources,

      – promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change.”

      That last phrase, “and in particular combating climate change”, having been added through the amending Treaty of Lisbon which Cameron vigorously opposed until November 4th 2009 when he decided to cave in and swallow it whole.

      As far as I know Cameron did not ask for the reversal of any of the Lisbon Treaty changes which he had previously opposed for more than two years.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Daniel Hannan explains how it works here today:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3533191/EXPOSED-Pro-EU-cheer-leaders-Brussels-payroll-Continuing-devastating-series-Euro-MP-DANIEL-HANNAN-reveals-REAL-reason-charities-quangos-lobbyists-desperate-Britain-EU.html

      “A recent public letter warning against Brexit argued that EU laws have ‘a hugely positive effect’ on the environment. It was signed by the heads of a dozen green pressure groups including Natural England, the Green Alliance, the RSPB and the Natural Environment Research Council. What was not mentioned was that the European Commission funds eight of the 12 organisations directly.”

      “In much the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change.”

  5. Antisthenes
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    When it comes to achieving a certain objective unless those wishing to achieve that objective are honest and have integrity truth and facts are not allowed to hinder that achievement. We are seeing this in the way that people are responding to the Panama revelations. The left are revelling in the fact that they have found a stick in which to beat those who do not want their non wealth creating world order. Those non believers who do not believe that money grows on trees and that the government should not provide and fund everything.

    What has emerged from the revelation is that there are a some very bad people in the world (quelle surprise) who are possibly evading paying tax or doing other naughty things. It has also emerged that many are just lawfully going about their business for reasons you have described. For the left it was handy that the names of the good, the bad and the ugly all came up in the same expose. So they could tar all with the same brush and use false accusations and innuendo to attack those who do not agree with their envy politics and their ideologies.

  6. Roy Grainger
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    As far as I can see Mr Cameron hasn’t done a single thing that is wrong. Some of the newspapers screaming about it (Times, Telegraph) advise their readers to do exactly the same thing on their Personal Finance pages. Other newpapers (e.g. left out ed) have their own somewhat more dubious offshore tax arrangements. What is notable really is how badly No 10 has handled the issue and how now inevitably some people will take the opportunity to vote Leave simply as a way to express their disapproval of Cameron. Every cloud ….

    Whilst this tax “scandal” is entirely synthetic the situation with John Whittingdale reported on the opendemocracy website would seem, if true, to have more substance.

    • formula57
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      ” Mr Cameron hasn’t done a single thing that is wrong” – oh yes he has!

      Not, as seems likely, with regard to arranging his tax affairs but he has made a fatal mistake for a prime minister: forefeiting to a critical degree the bare trust and respect of the British people. He is on the slide (not just for his tax but steel, the referendum and sham EU renegotiation) and will never recover, I predict.

      • Richard1
        Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Could you set out what Mr Cameron has done on this which you think is wrong or “forfeits trust”?

  7. eeyore
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Yesterday’s post by Mr Redwood attracted comments which made many interesting points. Among them I should like to highlight:

    1. There are those who feel all money is “the nation’s money”, with the twin implications that people who have it, have it unfairly because it really belongs to all of us, and that the wealthy in particular have grabbed more than their “fair share”;

    2. Wealthy people are liars, tax cheats and thieves, and the wealthier they are the wickeder they are;

    3. Investing abroad, or holding savings abroad, is not only fraudulent but evil in itself. Those who do so must be smitten with great smitings;

    4. Ordinary people are highly moral and thus entitled to the support of richer, wickeder people. It is not clear whether these face-grinding villains are wicked because they are rich, or rich because they are wicked – more research is needed here;

    5. Ordinary people are morally entitled to be very, very angry, even to the point of violence, with wealthy people.

    6. Government is a benevolent organisation whose function is jealously to watch the rich liars and cheats and then strip them of as much as ordinary people need or would like;

    7. Law must always defer to moral outrage when it comes to taxation of the wealthy;

    8. The rich have money because they stole it from the poor who, unlike them, are entitled to own it;

    9. Gratitude to the rich is morally repugnant, but hatred of them the token of an elevated mind;

    10. Moral indignation trumps good sense and is a full and adequate substitute for thought and/or knowledge.

    None of this I knew before, and am grateful to Mr Redwood’s commentators for enlightening me. Perhaps there are yet more points I’ve missed which others can pick up on.

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Eeyore – If they are left wing rich people preaching leftism and redistributive ideals then they ought to be willing to pay full tax here without avoidance. I can think of many pop stars, actors and businessmen who are presently stating that Britain ought to open the borders.

      Mr Cameron likes the open border policy, the foreign aid program and spending money on biased leaflets. So therefore I am not one who says he’s done nothing wrong. He has. He’s offered the largesse of the nation at our expense and should pay as much tax as he possibly can, in that case. (Peter Hitchens says his expenses are more of an issue.)

      Otherwise we should have no issue with with rich – non hypocritical – people being rich or making the most tax efficient arrangements.

    • libertarian
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      eeyore,

      Thank you for the excellent summary of the thinking of large number of the population of the UK.

      A truly superb post.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Indeed the politics of envy in all its vile, evil and damaging ugliness. All cheered on by Labour, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the Libdems, the BBC, many charities and even right on lefty Cameron himself and his side kick Mr Morally Repugnant.

    • David Price
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      “must be smitten with great smitings” gave me a giggle

    • Richard1
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Excellent summary of the Guardianista mindset, which one often thinks is the mindset of an extraordinary number of people. Happily elections suggest otherwise and leftists of the Corbyn, McDonnell mould don’t get elected.

    • John C.
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      It’s the easily-offended society again: this time people are offended that other people might be better off than they are, and are even more offended that they might want to hang on to their money.
      The easily-offended society is of course the latest incarnation of socialism, or the spreading of the socialist mentality into nearly all aspects of the relations between people.

  8. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Could be a shock in store for any UK government legislating about “offshore ” accounts.The assumption is made that such monies and shares are necessarily “offshore” to avoid or evade tax and not a convenient way to buy and sell shares over a number of tax jurisdictions without having to complete numerous online and paper tax forms leaving a trail of ongoing decisions by umpteen international Inland Revenue departments. The added assumption that such accounts are always “making money”.

    In the 2008 Financial Crash, billions in whatever currency one wishes to name, were lost to investors across the world. Supposing they had repatriated their “offshore” interests. Well, the Inland Revenue would either not be collecting on them or collecting and refunding across numerous accounts and working out tax liabilities due to bilateral and multilateral tax and income agreements between the UK and all the countries on Earth.

    In many cases if not all, a massive refund from the Inland Revenue would need to be paid.
    One British company which I researched some time ago had been making money for many decades when others did not. In its prospectus published in the UK it offered to pay dividends in Bermuda if the the buyer of shares so wished. Months later the shares went into massive decline. But selling the shares would have been perhaps unwise given its long-term success. A gamble. Not an automatic money-earner, offshore or not.

    It is easier to gain some perspective of “offshore” accounts if one looks and listens to the famous US Congressional questioning of Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple.
    Democrat questioners pandering to their electorate, many of whom are thought of by some as not quite as au fait about the nature of geo-political business activities than their Republican counterparts, railed against Mr Cook and Apple about the billions in at least one offshore account.
    It transpired that all such monies had already been subject to tax…-paid in full, as with many American companies, the money remained offshore to make immediate investment opportunities throughout the world. In short, nothing was being stolen from the tax-payer of any country. In fact, it was concluded Tim Cook was a true American patriot. That’s how one Republican put it anyway. The Democrats just shut up.

    Of course the Democrat Senators as individuals knew this to be the case but were grandstanding to their electorates to show they were “fighting the rich” and “on the side of Joe Sixpack”.
    Like the Labour Party, the US Democratic Party patronizes the people who vote for it.
    So, we have the embarrassing spectacle in the UK of the Leader of the Labour Party and his Deputy Leader and the forever complaining SNP banging on about financial matters which , quite frankly, they believe their voters too thick to understand.

  9. agricola
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Have I misunderstood your statement, ” The beneficiaries of the MPs pension plan are enjoying complete tax relief on all income and gains.” From this sentence I gather that on retirement you pay no income tax on your MP pension. If this is a fact then why is my pension taxed. All the time I was taxed in the UK this was so , and continues now I am taxed in the EU.

    I have always known that any MEP and bureaucrat associated with the EU had tax advantages on income and pension, not to mention unbelievable tax free expenses, but this is the first time I have read that MPs have special exemptions. Please clarify.

    Reply NO – tax relief on all investment gains and income within the fund – or course like everyone else MPs pay tax when withdrawing money from the fund.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    From someone who knows only a little about how these things work.

    Surely the simple solution to all of this is to have HMRC approved schemes, for all types of investments.

    Similar safeguards are used for Bank Deposit protection.

    Proof of acceptance that all is well, should be a simple HMRC Registration Number.

    The alternative is to use a Broker or Financial Advisor registered with the FSA as they are now.

    If you purchase from a registered source, then the customer should be totally in the clear, as it is the so called registered, approved and trained expert who is giving advice, and it is they who should be the responsible party.

    Non UK approved Schemes/Advisors/Brokers/Solicitors by definition are therefore a real risk.

    Once again the complexity of the tax system with its differing rates, amounts, qualifications and allowances, is causing total confusion to most of the population.

    The Marketing and selling of Tax planning is becoming more and more the norm for Banks, Solicitors, Financial Advisors and Brokers, if you use one of these organisations, for which you pay a fee, why should you be personally at risk, as all of these outlets are supposed to be registered to give such advice in a professional and honest manner.

    With regards to so called overseas investments, this is just a red herring label.

    Most most Pension funds, and Equity ISA”s have them in their holdings, so just because money invested overseas does not mean you are doing something dodgy.

    We need to loose the word aggressive, you are either within the law (registered as an approved scheme/advisor by UK authorities) or you are outside it.

    Surely its the Dealers and Advisors who sell such schemes who should be the real target.

    The customer should only be at risk if they use a non registered, non approved source.

    Reply THat’s basically the system we have. Anyone using a regulated Adviser will be advised to invest in legal ways that include paying tax due. As we also wish to live in a free society and welcome foreign investment, enterprise and capital here we have to accept that not all company investments can be such approved investments so they need individual reporting and examination.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Reply-reply

      Once again it would seem that politicians want to muddy the waters of a complicated tax system, for some sort of political gain.

      Politicians set the rules, Politicians set the penalties and allowances, Politicians can change the rules at any time, although try to do so retrospectively would be very, very wrong.

      Politicians cannot moan about morality and aggressive actions by others (or indeed themselves) if they are within the rules they have previously set out.

      If the rules are not clear, then Politicians should blame themselves for making poorly constructed regulations/policies/rules.

      You will never stop the movement of money from one Country to another for financial advantage, until all of the politicians agree a uniform tax rule/money movement structure for all Countries Worldwide.

      Best of luck with that. !

      In the meantime just accept that some people are rather more clever than Politicians.

  11. Richard1
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    The humbug and drivel being talked on this issue is extraordinary. An ability to diversify investments internationally is a good thing – an important liberty for people and a benefit to businesses funding in the international capital markets. Societies which try to prevent it – such As the Eastern bloc pre-1989 or the UK in the 1970s under Labour – are poorer and less free.

    Now I hear there are calls to tax gifts, as these are seen (rightly) as a way round IHT. Better would be to follow what most sensible countries have done – including eg Sweden under a Social Democrat government – and simply abolish IHT.

    Why on Earth has Mr Cameron started a movement for public figures to publish their tax returns – which will surely not stop at him? This will simply further discourage anyone coming into public life who has the nous to have a proper career outside politics or the public sector. We will end up only with fatuous politicians like Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell – incapable of employment outside the publicly funded agitprop sector. Perhaps that’s the intention?!

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Richard 1

      Publishing tax returns is absolutely pointless, all it does is show what you have declared, and on which your tax has been calculated.

      In fact Cameron has not published his Tax returns at all, he has just published a number of figures under vague headings of income.

      Time we stopped this absolute childish farce of:

      I will show you mine, if you will let me see yours nonsense.

      • Richard1
        Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Indeed it is possible to be very rich without anything indicating that appearing on your tax return if you didn’t happen to have extracted income or realised a gain. Eg the (legal and sensible) IHT avoiding structures reportedly adopted by the left wing (names removed ed) families would not be apparent from a current tax return.

  12. The PrangWizard
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    The direction of travel in these matters is clear. Until we in England get a strong leadership prepared to defend the right and the legal vigorously where needed, the present day version ‘the mob’ will continue to dictate terms on all manner of subjects and succeed. Cameron is weak and misguided in spite of all his aggressive speaking and slickness. Shouting doesn’t indicate true strength.

    For all the concessions given to appear to be listening and to be seen as a ‘good guy’, he continues to be attacked, and for his weakness among other things. He now seems to be on the run. He is destroying the country by allowing it to be undermined by its opponents and enemies. And I am one of those who attack him for that.

    With the mob now in their ignorance attacking overseas money of any kind and the rich generally again; we even have extremely rich celebrities hypocritically attacking a much less rich PM, I wonder what his next concession will be, full exchange controls? Holiday money limited to £25? It sounds ridiculous but that’s how low my confidence in him is.

    • John C.
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      You are right: Cameron has opened the floodgates of envy, and they will be very difficult for anyone in future to close.
      What SHOULD cause righteous indignation is that a Prime Minister earns in a year what a man who kicks footballs can earn in a week.

  13. They Work for Us?
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Much of this is encapsulated in an article by Charles Moore today.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/10/david-camerons-fate-is-to-be-caught-in-the-wealth-trap/

    None of this ever addresses the old story of the two families, with similar incomes, one family spends everything on their way through life, the other is a prudent saver.

    The reward for the saver is to fund the care of its old, be taxed on what they want to pass on to their children and censure them for taking any legal measures to minimise the tax paid. . There is no penalty on the profligate. A high threshold for inheritance tax for the former and the workhouse for the latter would redress the balance.

    Humourously one should give all your money way early to your children and murder someone you really don’t like so as to receive free care in your old age at no cost to your relatives.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Indeed the state removes the moral hazard with the predictable results that few behave responsibly and if they do they get mugged by the state.

    • Richard1
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      certainly it makes sense to give as much as possible to your children or other heirs and then survive 7 years. What is interesting is even avowedly left wing people like (names removed ed) who believe(d) in confiscatory taxes adopt sensible and legal tax planning (= tax avoidance) when it comes to their own families. I find it heartening – it shows how human nature in almost all cases trumps idealogy

  14. Chris S
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we should have a wider debate on the amount of tax it is morally acceptable for a state to demand from an individual citizen ?

    The principle of no taxation without representation is a good one but hardly covers a situation where personal tax allowances are set so high that vast numbers of people pay no income tax at all while an increasingly tiny number pay a very high proportion of their income in tax. Remember, if Corbyn and Sturgeon have their way, this situation will become significantly worse with a 50% top rate and the removal of the higher rate relief on pension contributions, a move even considered by Osbourne !

    People are only prepared to pay tax if they perceive the amount they individually pay is fair. There are various ways of reducing your personal tax bill that are perfectly legal. In my view, an individual owes it to his family to use every available measure to minimise the amount of tax they pay as long as it is legal.

    In 1991 I had an opportunity to get out of a corporate job after a 22 year career.

    At the time, I had two young children and was working a huge number of hours as anyone in a well paid job has to do. In return, I was losing around 50% of my income in NI and income tax. I used to joke that, rather than being able to do everything I would like to have done for my own family, I was personally paying enough tax to provide at least one unmarried mother with a rented flat and all the associated benefits that go with it.

    The tax regime was a minor but not insignificant factor in my decision to leave and become self employed. In subsequent years I earned less but our disposable income was uneffected and over time it increased, despite paying all taxes due under the rules that applied to self employment.

    The situation for middle and high earners is now significantly worse with even child benefit withdrawn from higher earners. Even after all income taxes are paid, VAT is now 20% rather than 17.5% thus reducing the value of everyone’s net disposable income.

    Is it morally right that while millions receive every benefit the state decides to provide, they pay no income tax at all while there is no limit on the amount of income tax an individual can be required to pay and this is ramped up further by higher rates. Yet the largest taxpayers even have so-called universal benefits denied to them ?

    It is usual in business for customers to get a discount the more they spend with an organisation. In the realm of income tax the very opposite is true.

    Lower tax rates stimulate growth and people strive to earn more if they can see that they are going to retain enough of the extra earnings to make a real difference to their lifestyle.

    I would support a flat tax regime. In principle, everyone should pay some income tax otherwise they have no incentive to ensure that the state limits it’s demands and uses the taxes it does raise efficiently. I would return to the 10% basic rate of income tax up to a level then 20% from then on.

  15. rk
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I think you are underplaying the problem of offshore companies considerably.
    It’s perfectly legitimate to invest in an American, French or Japanese company for instance.

    But these dodgy shell companies in the Caribbean surely need to be clamped down on?
    Gabriel Zucman (UC Berkely) estimates that 80% of wealth held in tax havens (some $7.5trillion) is never taxed at all.

    Why is it that companies like Amazon and Google can claim their sales are based in Luxembourg/Bermuda and therefore don’t need to pay any tax? Is it really so hard to put in place a law that says companies have to pay tax where their economic activities take place?

    HMRC’s figures show that only 1/3 of companies in 2013 declared a corporation tax liability. Maybe they’re all making losses. But it seems likely that they aren’t- they’re cooking the books either legally or illegally!

    If ‘offshore’ has a bad name- then it’s thoroughly deserved.

    Reply Of course governments are seeking to clampdown on artificial arrangements to take money offshore to avoid tax, and there is now more international concerted action which is what is needed to deal with corporates changing jurisdictions. Any given country can of course say it intends to tax activity where it takes place in its jurisdiction – the problem is defining the activity and its value. It is all about transfer pricing, and added value being provided by a global company from more than one location. How much of the value of a service is the immediate cost of provision – staff and computer in given country where customer is – and how much is IP, HQ back up and worldwide contribution to the Group brand and service?

    • rk
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 4:41 am | Permalink

      Yes transfer pricing is very important… And I can see that the fairest person in the world would still have to make some tricky subjective judgments.

      Agrawal (2007) says that 2/3 of managers say their transfer pricing is ‘non-market based’.

      Maybe it’s time that we stopped trusting companies to do this?
      Or stopped trusting very large companies to do this?

      If the relevant tax authorities can agree on where economic transactions really took place… then surely that would be fair to the company.

      • libertarian
        Posted April 12, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        rk

        “If the relevant tax authorities can agree on where economic transactions really took place… then surely that would be fair to the company.”

        This is far too complicated for you or indeed I to come up with simplistic silliness like this.

        Heres just one example.

        You buy a litre of petrol in Surrey, theres no doubt thats where the transaction took place . However the petrol company extracted the oil at a cost in another country, transported the oil to a refinery somewhere else and then delivered it here to sell. The cost associated with the operation can be “transferred priced’ quite legitimately in this scenario. Please explain why knowing where the final transaction took place is of any use in negotiating international tax law

  16. Lifelogic
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    It is reported in the Telegraph today that Cameron will defend the right of people to give their money away to children tax free. Well why on earth shouldn’t they? The parents have paid tax on it already. What is the point of earning money if it is not yours, to do with as you wish, once you have earned it and paid tax on it? Is helping your children buy a house or car to get to work somehow worse than spending it on yourself?

    Unfortunately Cameron chose the dire Osborne as his Chancellor. Osborne has blatantly ratted on his IHT £1M threshold each promise of 8+(?) years back and also presides over a 20% lifetime transfer tax. It is time he fired him. He has doubled the state debt, mugged pensions and landlords/tenants and presides over huge PSBR, a record trade deficit, absurdly high tax rates and tax complexity and wastes money hand over fist on complete nonsense like offshore wind, happiness indexes, HS2, the dysfunctional NHS and the EU.

    His national living wage and his absurd sugar tax shows clearly that he is a total economic illiterate. These will inflict huge damage on the UK competitivity should they proceed. Osborne will clearly never roll them back he is too daft, so a sensible chancellor is needed.

    One that likes simplicity, lower rates leading to higher growth, making the UK attractive for investors & some fiscal neutrality. A chancellor who does not think that other people’s money is just his to steal at will and then for him to waste on endless damaging dross.

    • Richard1
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      But the reduction in CGT to 20% is a very sensible move by Mr Osborne, and a recognition that his previous rate of 28% had failed.

    • turbo terrier
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic

      I do get the impression Gideon is not your favourite bunny.

  17. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Millions of people knowingly or unknowingly have overseas investments through various collective schemes, not just pension funds but unit and investment trusts. In fact as I recall the story the first investment trust was set up in the 19th century so that people of modest means in the UK could easily make small investments in US railroads, albeit investing indirectly by owning shares in the trust which owned shares in the railroad companies.

    I reckon the Labour party is making a meal of this because it has little else to say.

    • Bob
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      @Denis Cooper

      “Millions of people knowingly or unknowingly have overseas investments”

      So long as they’re not preaching against it from a position of power then I have no problem with that.

      I am currently agonising over a decision on major home improvements on the grounds that the money invested will eventually be subjected to IHT, thanks to the Tories ratting on their IHT promise. If I follow Dave’s Mum’s example I should just hand the cash to my kids now and hope to survive 7 years, but in the meantime forgo the comfort that the extensions would provide.

      • John C.
        Posted April 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Without knowing your circumstances, it is more than possible that the rise in house prices (caused by low interest rates and over-population, and the unfortunate fact that land stays annoyingly the same size) will plunge you into the IHT pool before very long anyway.
        My advice: enjoy yourself while you can.

  18. fedupsoutherner
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Agree John. In my book, Cameron has just handled this badly and nothing untoward has happened yet. Corbyn is so saintly he is now demanding we look into inheritance tax. That’s not going to please a lot of people who use this policy now. They are not all very rich people that do this. I know plenty of ordinary people who have put aside money or property for their children before they die.

    Personally I am tiring of this whole affair and it is a distraction from what is really important at the moment and that is Brexit. Let’s get on with the things that really matter.

  19. fedupsoutherner
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Completely off topic, well done Danny Willett on winning the Masters!!!!!!!!! Great stuff and worth staying up for.

  20. Wandering
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I think the operative phrase here for David Cameron has to be “hoist with his own petard”.

    This government — along it must be said with previous ones — has expended a lot of PR effort to conflate in the public’s mind all “offshore” activity, both legal and otherwise, with “illegal”, and to conflate fully legal “tax avoidance” with illegal “tax evasion”. The effort has largely succeeded — using a complicit media the government has spun everything offshore with a taint of illegality, and nearly all tax avoidance with a taint of evasion.

    So it should not be surprising that any MP found to have legal offshore or tax avoidance is seen as a criminal. That is precisely the label the government has sought to apply to others in this situation.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Correct.

      • Cheshire Girl
        Posted April 12, 2016 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        I am wondering about my understanding of how much money a person can give away every year. I had the idea that it was £3000 only. Does anyone know if this is correct, or where I could have got this figure from?

        Thank you.

  21. alan jutson
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Sorry to go off topic, but postman has just delivered my Government (taxpayer funded) EU Referendum leaflet through my letterbox.

    Have now read it, and can say it contains a lot of opinion, few actual facts, some outright lies, and a lot of pictures.

    In short a rather pathetic but expensive waste of taxpayer money, in an attempt at rigging the referendum result with simple propaganda.

    It may convince some who have absolutely no interest in politics or facts, but I shall send mine, with corrections added, back to Conservative HQ using their free post address.

    Could not redirect the original as it was not contained within an envelope.

    It was delivered just like any other junk mail, which usually advertises Indian and Pizza takeaways, local Taxi services, water softeners, Estate agents services, and the like.

    • oldtimer
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Junk mail sounds like an appropriate description.

      Ours arrived today too with a wad of other junk mail.

    • Beecee
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      It says that the Government supports our remaining in the EU …..

      But as some of the Government Ministers do not – isn’t that statement false?

      Being economical with the truth is somewhat stretched in the document. Maybe it is time to set the Farage on it?

      • Bob
        Posted April 12, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        @Beecee

        “Being economical with the truth”

        Mr Cameron has form on this.

      • John C.
        Posted April 12, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Strictly speaking, you can never say, “The Government believes….etc.” You might as well say, ” Drivers speed because….” These generalisations always have exceptions.
        The EURO leaflet should have stated that these are the beliefs of Cameron etc. It is unfair that an opposing leaflet has to pose as the opposition. Names and names only should be attached to these expressions of opinion, and not organs of the state.

  22. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, it has crossed my mind that the present campaign to keep us in the EU may be the result of a classic brain-storming session in No 10.

    You know, when the leader of the group says:

    “Now, just throw out all your ideas for how bad it would be if we left the EU. As many ideas as you can come up with, and don’t worry now about whether they’re right or wrong or even if they seem silly, at this stage we just want to get all your ideas down on the flipchart.”

    But usually the next stage is to go through the ideas more critically, filter out the nonsense and only keep the sound ideas, not just get them all printed up in leaflets.

    • Chris
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps there weren’t any sound ideas…?

    • turbo terrier
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      Denis

      Are there any brains in No 10 etc ed?

      The rubbish coming out of there begs belief.

  23. Bob
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I for one am not interested in the contents of Mr Cameron’s tax returns, I am more interested to know what he has omitted from them.
    If he preaches that paying tax is a moral duty then he should make sure he is doing so from a position of fiscal probity.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      People will pay taxes far more happily if they are reasonable, simple and if they can see they are not being wasted by the state on propaganda, expensive greencrap energy, HS2 and the likes.

      The moral thing for the government to do is for the state to run an efficient ship for a change and keep taxes to sensible levels to cover the very few things that state can actually do better than individuals. Things such as law and order, defense, property rights, basic infrastructure – very little else.

  24. Mitchel
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Off Topic but anyone out there who believes that a collective EU defence system will keep us more secure than looking after ourselves should take note of the revelation in today’s Telegraph of German soldiers having to leave a four week NATO exercise in Norway after just 12 days because they had exceeded their overtime limit.I thought it might have been a leftover from 1st April but,no,it’s true.

  25. oldtimer
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    The furore about off shore investments (and tax avoidance) is as good an example as any that ignorance is not so much a source of bliss as of anguish or even anger. For some ignorance is understandable. For others, such as MPs, it is irresponsible or perhaps wilful. I hear that not every MP wants to disclose their tax returns. I am sure that most would not want to share with their constituents the enormously privileged deal they enjoy through MPs’ pension arrangements that you described yesterday. The stench and sound of hypocracy is all pervasive in parliament. No doubt we shall get oanother dose of it today.

  26. Chris
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    You mention the EU tax havens for certain investment funds, including Dublin. Slightly OT, John Longworth has written in the Guardian today about why he resigned as Chairman of BCC. He makes clear how the EU favours big business and how multinationals “can also avoid paying tax by operating across EU borders”
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/11/i-resigned-tell-truth-leaving-eu-british-chambers-commerce

    “….After I volunteered to resign as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce so that I could speak freely about Brexit, I received hundreds of messages of support from business people eager to break free of the costs and restrictions imposed by Brussels with the willing cooperation of Whitehall. Anti-Brexit multinational corporations, which represent only around 5% of the businesses in Britain, are short-termist and narrowly focused.
    Their primary drivers are quarterly reporting, twice-yearly dividends and fat end-of-year executive bonuses – but rarely planning beyond a three-year horizon. They benefit from the barriers to market entry created by EU regulation and public procurement rules. They can produce cheaply and sell expensively by segmenting the European market. They can also avoid paying tax by operating across EU borders.

    They are, in other words, economically rational in their own interests but not particularly concerned about the future of the people of Britain or the wider business community. It is outrageous, in my view, that these corporations have signed up to the EU cause without reference to their shareholders, customers or employees – just as outrageous as the government using taxpayers’ money to fund the pro-EU case….”

  27. Bert Young
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with John’s blog today ; there is absolutely nothing illegal or wrong in having off-shore investments . Diversifying one’s investments is a wise thing to do and taking advantage of conditions `elsewhere in the world where markets and the economics are positive , has always been a sensible decision . It is another matter if one seeks to hide these investments or not to declare (and pay tax where relevant ) the income from them .

    Cameron is not responsible for his Fathers’ activities , so providing he has not tried to hide any benefit from his parents , I don’t see what all the fuss is about . Admittedly the Camerons are well off and are in the public spotlight ; whatever they do or say is bound to be highlighted by the media and over-dramatised as news . Cameron now has to prove that he is not a malingerer and can be trusted ; I don’t like the man or feel he should be the Prime Minister but I don’t want him to be dragged through the mud without due reason .

    This morning I received the dreaded pamphlet and immediately returned it to 10 Downing St .

    • bluedog
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      ‘Cameron now has to prove that he is not a malingerer and can be trusted’.

      It is true to say that you only trust somebody once, and after that there is a question. This is the position that Cameron finds himself in, he has forfeit the benefit of any doubt and is regarded with deep suspicion, not only by the electorate but by his own party. The Panama Papers affair simply provides an outlet for broader frustrations, amplified by the EU referendum. So yes, blaming Cameron for what his parents have done, understandably, to help their children as best they can, is inherently unfair. But if Cameron started from a position of national trust, he would not face his current embarrassment.

      Cameron’s nature is such that he has actually succeeded in deepening the mistrust through his handling of the situation. Fit to be PM? I don’t think so.

  28. David Williams
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    This is all absurd.

    Why are we not hearing more about the EU tax haven Luxembourg and those who established it?

    Why is no-one being prosecuted for the theft of documents from the Panama law firm?

  29. Kenneth
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Here we go again.

    We pay a fortune for the BBC news service which employs far more journalists than nearly all the others put together.

    You can virtually guarantee that while the BBC is running a campaign about tax there will be people dying in a hospital somewhere due to NHS neglect (e.g. Mid Staffs), kids being “groomed” by some gang somewhere (e.g. Rochdale) or another public institution spending our money like confetti (e.g. Kid’s Company, or the BBC itself).

    While the lazy and politically-motivated hacks at the BBC peddle non-news, it will take years for real news stories – that involve life and limb – to surface (and these will almost certainly be unearthed by a non-BBC outlet).

    In addition, with this kind of media intrusion we can virtually guarantee that the next crop of public figures will be of a poorer quality than the last.

  30. David Price
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Cameron and Osbourne have heaped scorn and criticism on people they describe as morally repugnant so it is only fit and proper they get caught in the same deluge, though Osbourne hasn’t squeaked up yet.

    The issue is not their exploiting legal tax management like thousands of others in the UK it is the utter lack of leadership and backbone they exhibit, kowtowing to the EU and the city while bullying the rest of us.

    As for the latest government pamphlet of EU lies that arrived through the door just now, that is going to the midden where it belongs

  31. Nig L
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Cameron has brought it on himself and now we see signs of political panic setting up some sort of Tax Evasion Inquiry. For both political and revenue raising reasons (how many times has the Chancellor ‘counted’ the same amount of money?) he decided to attack tax evasion, in fact, to save the Tory party from being the nasty party, he has sought to give offshore wealth pariah status and then lo and behold,(he has to set out his own tax affairs ed).

    This was followed by five dissembling statements to the press, justified by the pompous Michael Fallon who came up with the risible statement that is was the Journos’ fault for not asking the correct questions together with the puppy dog Nick Boles and others’

    Sajid Javid no idea re Tata, Amber Rudd, Greening, Nicky Morgan ludicrously suggesting to young people they should vote to remain because their train travel will be affected, all significantly out of their depth.

    Your Government is in trouble and this tax nonsense is another symptom.

  32. ian
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Wet & mad has still not closed the tax loophole on oversea companies and foreigner paying their tax on property, he has had three a temps and still leaves the door wide open, as it stands at the moment, they sell the property take the money outside of the country and are suppose to fill in a tax form and send back any money they owe in tax.

    Well I ask you, how can you get the tax owed on profits when the money has already left the country, all other country in the EU have a withholdings tax of 15% or more and then they supply evidence in writing of they should have that money back like they never earn a profit on the property.
    I can only conclude that wet & mad is complicity in this tax evasion by saying he has closed it but he haves not, to close it he would have to in place a withholding tax on overseas companies and people. still then he is helping them evade tax.

  33. ian wragg
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Just received my glossy propaganda brochure from CMD. ripped up unread and returned to HoC.

  34. ian
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Also the money coming into this country to buy property is not checked, it is taken on faith that what they say about the money is true and no checks are made with their own country tax office to make sure that the tax has been paid on the money and came by the money in a legal way.

    • A different Simon
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Yep .

      UK authorities ask less questions than the French Foreign Legion .

      They are scared to ask the provenance of large amounts of money lest it goes elsewhere .

      On the other hand they do not miss the opportunity to monitor British Citizens finances , ostensibly to prevent money laundering and terrorism .

      Personally I am ashamed of many of the practices of The City of London and believe Britain is capable of much better than money laundering .

  35. stred
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    It is government policy to use foreign investment to fund most of our electicity generation and high speed rail, while Network Rail buys foreign currency options to pay for purchases. And amazingly, our EU contributions are used to fund Chinese steelworks generation, and then they dump steel here, requiring- oh no -foreign investment to save the industry and nearby customers. Such as the Ford engine factory in Wales, which needs special high quality steel. Ford is foreign of course.

    Just over the water from Port Talbot is Hinkley Point nuke, which is owned by French EDF, who were loaned the money to buy it by nationalised RBS, and now their engineers think it should be redesigned, but HMG wants it anyway and has offered twice as much payback to the French and Chinese, hoping that they fork out for it.

    But now most of the British population thinks foreign investment is naughty. It amake you wonder whether we should just ask the Germans to run the place for us. They probably would not wish to even try.

  36. ian
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Belgium and Denmark bring in negative interest rates on mortgages that means they pay you and German bank has minus 1% interest on credit cards on everything they buy for two years.
    Bail out to day for third biggest bank in Italy.

  37. ian
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    The only fiddling that might be going on, is mortgage application, that means overstating your earnings to get a mortgage for a private house that you live in.

  38. Qubus
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    May I remind you of the comments of Lord Clyde in the case of Ayrshire Pullman Motor Services versus The Inland Revenue, Tax case 754, 1929:

    “No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer’s pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue”

  39. The Prangwizard
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Just when I think surely Cameron cannot possibly make any more stupid comments he does just that. He has just congratulated the journalists who leaked the Panama material – my understanding however is that is was hacked and is thus stolen property – and those who are using it.

    He is daily, it seems, determined to out-Corbyn, Corbyn. He is must be surrounded by people who are just as clueless as he is. PR people talking to PR people – one gimmick after the other.

    He is the architect of his and our democracy’s destruction.

  40. Colin Watson
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Hello John

    A major problem is that there are too many stupid people who do not understand the situation you have described. Take Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. Even when the situation was elequently explained to him by a BBC economics editor he still called David Cameron a Tax Avoider. The real issue to me is that the Press and media have no control and can say (demand) what they like. I am all for free speech but I find the total lack of respect for those in positions of authority most disagreeable. More than anything the issues such as this one are trivial and distract from the major issue we need to tackle.

  41. Roy Grainger
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Just anecdotally, as part of my job outside the UK I encounter people who evade (not avoid) tax, mostly these are USA citizens seeking to shelter their foreign earnings from the quite draconian USA tax regime ( which you may recall required even Boris Johnson to pay capital gains tax on a London house sale simply because he’d been born there). Without fail they all mention a single well-known bank active in the UK as being the best for this type of arrangement. Ultimately it is these facilitators who need to be prosecuted along with the individuals concerned.

  42. Tim L
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    John

    Got my booklet and it says the EU single market of 500 million customers is over 5 times bigger than the UK. Just looked it up on the EU website, it’s 508 million and the UK is 60 million of that.

    Apparently the EU economy is 5 times bigger than the UK but have they removed the UK economy fro the EU economy for this comparison?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I don’t suppose for a moment that the pamphlet gives the other side of the story, that while the EU Single Market may indeed have 5 times as many customers potentially eager to buy from companies in the UK it also has n times as many suppliers eager to sell us their stuff. That aspect is always deliberately ignored by those who support the EEC/EC/EU/USE, and has been for more than half a century now.

      One well-known consequence, not inevitable in principle but always the practical outcome, is that they sell us far more than we sell them, now in a ratio which is close to £3 of imports from the rest of the EU for every £2 of exports.

      Another lesser-known consequence is that while the increase in trade in the EU Single Market does bring some overall economic benefit it is not as big a benefit as is usually claimed by its supporters, on the EU Commission’s own estimate only about 2% of GDP, and that’s not taking into account its costs.

      Given that the long term trend growth rate of the UK economy is about 2.5% a year the enhancement from the EU Single Market has been worth less than the natural economic growth over less than one average year.

      It would hardly be an historical tragedy if we lost that all of that 2% when we left the EU and at the same time left its Single Market; it would just mean that in the future we would have to wait an extra year to achieve the same level of prosperity.

      But of course we would prefer not to lose that 2% of GDP, and we would prefer to avoid the short term practical disruption which would be involved.

  43. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    The Labour Party and the SNP are speaking with forked tongues. What they really want to do is to reintroduce the foreign exchange controls that Geoffrey Howe abolished in 1980. Your older readers will remember that the Wilson government of 1964-1970 imposed a £300 limit on the amount that anybody could take out of the UK. We were more like a prison than a democracy. It’s not something that we want to return to.

  44. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Important letter in the FT today:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c5d52fe8-fd80-11e5-b5f5-070dca6d0a0d.html#axzz45XhiAR6S

    “Debate must be about future immigration policy

    Sir,

    Immigration is one of the key issues being debated during the referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Many people are not sure about what the referendum result would mean for the 3m EU migrants currently in Britain, or for the 1.2m British citizens living elsewhere in the EU. A significant number of British businesses would be disadvantaged by retrospective changes to their existing workforce.

    In our view, the public debate about immigration and free movement should be about future immigration policy — so that future changes should not apply retrospectively to those currently exercising their free movement rights. Both current EU migrants in Britain and British migrants living in other EU member states should be able to continue to live and work in those countries. We believe there are principled, practical and legal reasons why this would be the most sensible approach in the event of a Leave vote — and one that would be agreed upon by advocates of a broad range of positions on both immigration and the EU. Indeed, our understanding is that the Vienna Convention on Treaties protects the acquired rights of individuals in situations of treaty change.

    It would be good for the public debate about immigration if that consensus on this point was made clear before the referendum campaign. We are therefore calling on the official campaigns and leading voices for both the Remain and the Leave sides, and the major political parties, to clarify their position on this matter. The government should make clear that its policy would be to protect the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK and to seek reciprocal arrangements for UK citizens in other EU countries.

    Establishing that broad consensus ahead of the campaign would give us a better informed public debate about immigration in this referendum. It would not just reassure those who are directly affected but would also give the voters who will decide the outcome a clearer understanding about what is and what is not at stake on the referendum ballot paper.

    Sunder Katwala Director, British Future
    Simon Walker Director General, Institute of Directors
    Saira Grant Chief Executive, JCWI Nazek Ramadan
    Director, Migrant Voice
    Alp Mehmet Vice-Chair, Migration Watch
    Roger Casale Founder and CEO, New Europeans
    Stephen Booth Co-Director, Open Europe
    David Goodhart Head of Demography Unit, Policy Exchange”

    I know what my answer would be, but what I think is of little importance.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      This issue has already been addressed by John and the Leave campaign (I think Farage mentioned it too) – those who are here now stay – treaty changes can’t be applied retrospectively to those who benefitted from the treaty. Of course the Remain campaign won’t say this because it is a key part of their Campaign Fear to spread uncertainty and scare people.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted April 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        “The government should make clear that its policy would be to protect the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK and to seek reciprocal arrangements for UK citizens in other EU countries.”

  45. adam
    Posted April 12, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Why are the Guardian not driven into self imposed exile on Caribbean Islands. We punish those who contribute by taxing them while allowing those who make negative comments about our society to carry on unmolested. How about this, we tax those who criticise us rather than those who contribute to our society.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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