The government has committed today to creating a register of UK assets (such as property or businesses) which anyone – not just the taxman – can access. This public registry will list the ultimate owners of assets, preventing anyone hiding their money from HMRC behind so-called phantom firms or shell companies.
Crucially the UK is the first country to take this step. It sets a clear challenge for other rich European and G8 nations, as well as the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, who must follow suit to have a chance of ever escaping their ‘tax haven’ label.
“Questionable practice and downright illegality.”
Announcing the registry, Prime Minister Cameron said: “For too long a small minority have hidden their business dealings… and this cloak of secrecy has fuelled all manners of questionable practice and downright illegality. Illegality that is bad for the developing world – as corrupt regimes stash their money abroad under different identities. And illegality that is bad for Britain’s economy too – as people evade their taxes through untraceable trails of paperwork.
“Not only is this hugely unfair to the millions of hardworking people in Britain who pay their tax but it’s also bad for business. So that’s why we need to shine a spotlight on who owns what and where money is really flowing.”
Who will join the tax revolution?
Today saw a much needed step towards more effective British tax laws – one which seemed impossible just a year ago – and an incentive to other nations to do the same. Much of this is down to you – speaking out, signing petitions, sharing your outrage and demanding tax justice worldwide.
There’s still more to be done to improve legislation – and Oxfam has plenty of questions for Mr Cameron and his crew: will he do all he can to make sure UK tax havens, EU and G8 countries follow this lead? And will this new registry include all the assets we asked for this summer, like trusts?
However, today is a day to celebrate transparency and positive change. Thank you again to everyone who took action this summer on tax, and if you’d like to get involved in our further work, you can sign up to the Oxfam email list for the latest actions and campaign news.