Osborne backs tax 'transparency'

 

A US-style system of top politicians' tax returns being published could be considered in the UK, George Osborne indicated as the issue of personal finances continued to dominate the London mayoral race.

The Chancellor told The Telegraph he was "very happy" for the Government to look at the move, and Business Secretary Vince Cable declared that he was prepared to be open about his personal finances.

Pressure for ministers to reveal their income intensified on Thursday when the main rivals for the capital's top job set out details of their own earnings and tax.

The openness was prompted by a bitter public row between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone over tit-for-tat accusations of avoiding income tax by channelling earnings through companies.

In an intervention that is sure to open a serious debate, Mr Osborne told the newspaper: "My personal principle has been: make the rules in general more transparent.

"We are happy to consider publishing tax returns for people seeking the highest offices. Of course, they do it in America."

Mr Osborne also made clear that he would be open about whether he personally benefits in future from the reduction in the top 50p rate of income tax which he controversially cut in last month's budget.

"No doubt, next time I fill in a tax return, I will be asked the question and will give you a straightforward answer," he said - saying he had not been in the top earner category last time.

Backing openness in tax affairs, Mr Cable told The Telegraph: "I'm quite happy to be open about it. I have no problem with my tax return being published while I am in government."

Mr Livingstone, who is fighting to wrest back for Labour the post he lost in 2008, has come under fire for channelling earnings through a company so that they are liable for corporation not income tax.

In a foul-mouthed bust-up, Tory incumbent Mr Johnson called his City Hall predecessor a "f****** liar" over on-air allegations that he operated a similar arrangement.

Challenged to do so by Mr Livingstone, Mr Johnson and Liberal Democrat hopeful Brian Paddick issued accountant-signed statements of their earnings and tax for the past three or four years.

But although he published some figures, the ex-mayor said he would only give full details of his earnings if others agreed to disclose information concerning spouses and partners.

Mr Osborne, who has faced a stinging backlash over the tax cut for top earners and other budget measures such as the so-called "granny tax" of reduce income tax allowances for pensioners, defended the package.

"We are not in a daily popularity contest. But Britain is in a daily contest around the world," he said.

"I think this Government is helping Britain to win that contest."

His latest defence of the measures came as an opinion poll showed voter confidence in his ability to run the UK economy had slumped to an all-time low.

As many as 60 per cent do not trust him with the nation's purse strings (up eight points on last month) while those expressing confidence is down from 25% to 21%.

That net score of -39, in a ComRes poll for ITV News, is much worse than his previous low of -30, in July last year.

Mr Osborne insisted he is "unrepentant" about the Budget and claimed the measures it included have been received well internationally.

He said: "I don't have any regrets about the substance of the Budget, I'm unrepentant about it [being] an aggressively pro-business Budget ... it cut the top rate of tax which was deeply uncompetitive, it lifted millions of low-paid people out of tax altogether, and it cut the corporation tax rate so that Britain is very, very competitive in the world."

He also hit back at suggestions the Conservatives are out of touch.

"That is, again, a usual charge from the usual suspects," he said.

"It's now been four years since we were all chased around by people in top hats so it's hardly a new charge. I don't think it's relevant now and I don't think it was relevant then."

He added: "I feel that as long as the Government is on the side of those working people, then it will be a Government that is in touch."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said publishing tax returns would deter some talented potential political candidates from standing for office.

He said: "Everyone complains about the quality of our politicians. But it is our own fault. Why would somebody of flair and ability put themselves forward today?

"Osborne wants politicians to publish their tax returns in the cause of transparency. But that will never be enough. When will it end? The last 20 years of tax returns? School reports? Medical records?

"We are creating a situation where no one with any ability will put themselves forward for elected office. This suggestion will be yet another reason for people to look at the prospect of devoting their lives to public service and ask themselves is it worth it?

"We are tired of being run by a bunch of college kids who have no experience of the real world. These proposals will merely reinforce the problem."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick