Somewhat naively, I was enthusiastic about Gordon Brown’s plans to tackle tax havens. “Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” and here and here I expressed surprise and delight that Britain, the great producer of havens for wealthy men and companies, was joining Obama and the EU in a campaign to abolish them.
Maybe I should have known better. Richard Murphy at Tax Research UK explains here why his plans are a smokescreen. “I am convinced Gordon Brown wants a victory from the G20. I am sorry to say a few tax information exchange agreements and some weak words from Switzerland would not be a victory. They would certainly not be the outlawing of tax havens. Far from it.”
The current issue of Private Eye (not online) has the extraordinary story of how the Revenue treats Lord Rothermere as a non-domiciled tax exile even though the owner of the Mail lives in a neo-Palladian mansion in Wiltshire. HMRC even has a senior executive, one Dave Hartnett, who “pressurised tax inspectors to drop an investigation into the bizarre arrangement.”
Tories get the New Labour years all wrong when they look at the vast sums spent on welfare and public works and conclude that Brown was a socialist at heart. Brown did not steal from the rich to give to the poor, he stole from the middle class and skilled working class. As the deregulation of the City and tax breaks for billionaires, non doms and exiles show he was always ready to oblige the rich. I start my section on the super-rich before the crash in Waiting for the Etonians from Philip Beresford, the compiler of the Sunday Times Rich List.
The 11 years of Labour have been absolutely fantastic for the super-rich. Having a friendly Labour government has almost been better than having a Tory one; it has neutered politicians on the left.
Still true, it seems.