'Coalition turning blind eye to tax avoidance is no accident,' says Miliband vowing HMRC probe

The leader of the Labour Party said he would investigate tax avoidance

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Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minister of not tackling tax avoidance today and vowed to investigate firms who dodge paying multi-millions of pounds – if Labour wins the election.

In a speech to a party conference in Swansea, the Labour leader said the rich should play by the same rules as the poor and the Government, particularly David Cameron, “turning a blind eye” to the issue “is no accident”.

 

Mr Miliband also blamed the Coalition of “shrugging its shoulders over tax avoidance” and failing to close loopholes that allow companies to be registered in tax havens such as Jersey and the Cayman Islands.

He promised that if Labour win the general election in May, he would stage an “aggressive” review into the culture and practices of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which he suspects have “sweetheart deals with a few of the largest, multinational companies”.

He added that the investigation teams would issue a report of their findings within three months.

This week, claims emerged that British bank HSBC has assisted rich clients in avoiding paying full taxes through its Swiss private banking arm. Only one of the 1,000 people involved in the scandal has been prosecuted so far.

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The HSBC tax evasion files are just the tip of a probable mountain of tax avoidance hidden in tax havens around the world

The use of offshore aggressive tax avoidance schemes is on the rise, which contributes to a £34 billion gap in much-needed public funds, according to a report by HMRC.

Former treasurer of the Tory party, Lord Fink, admitted this week that he had taken “vanilla, bland” steps to reduce his tax bill and claimed that “everyone” was involved in tax avoidance.

He had previously threatened Mr Miliband with legal action if he repeated claims made in the House of Commons that he had been involved in “tax avoidance activities,” which led him to make the admission.

Mr Miliband also said during the conference: “Any civilised country is built on the idea of the common good must have common rules, shared and respected by all its citizens.

“But in Britain today we risk having one rule for the rich and powerful and another for everybody else.”

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Lord Fink admitted he took 'vanilla, bland' steps to reduce his tax bill

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls welcomed the party leader’s comments and vowed to close loopholes, increase transparency and toughen up penalties.

In response, the Conservatives said that Labour could not be trusted with the economy and that they have invested in HMRC to increase prosecutions for tax dodging and planning to reform how companies are taxed.

A spokesperson for the party said: “It’s David Cameron who has been clearing up Labour’s mess.’’

“So the question for Ed Miliband is whether this inquiry would include Labour’s record during the age of irresponsibility that he was at the heart of,’’ they added.

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