It seems scarcely a year goes by without another major leak showing the vast scale of tax evasion and avoidance by some of Britain’s wealthiest, and all-too-often most powerful, figures.
Let’s be clear: this is money that should be going towards paying for schools and hospitals, paying for the police and the armed forces or even helping to repay National Debt. Yet, instead of paying their fair share of tax like you or I, these individuals have chosen to hide it away. As a country we are quick to jump on those who over-claim benefits, yet those underpaying tax by millions seem to be given a free pass.
While epidemiologists have shown that income inequality is bad for the health of a society, the UK’s tax system hasn’t been designed this way for redistributive reasons, but because progressively taxing those who can afford it is the only way we can raise enough to pay for the services we all depend upon.
Even the super-wealthy depend upon services paid for through taxation, whether it’s to keep the country safe, to maintain law and order, to provide the infrastructure they use, or the healthy well-educated workforce they need to keep making money. When people evade or avoid tax they absorb the benefits of a well-financed state without paying their fair share of its costs.
Responding to the scandal, Labour has demanded the Prime Minister explain to Parliament why such behaviour has been tolerated for so long and what action she will now be taking, in addition to proposing a Tax Transparency and Enforcement Programme to clamp down on tax havens.
Only last week the Conservatives voted down Labour’s amendment tackling the scandal of tax evasion and avoidance. Perhaps now the pressure of public opinion can persuade them to do the right thing.