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Majority of Conservative voters think Government should be doing more to tackle tax dodging – poll

More than two thirds (70 percent) of Conservative voters think the Government should be doing more to tackle tax dodging by companies, which deprives countries of vital funds needed to fight poverty, a new poll commissioned by Oxfam in the wake of the Paradise Papers has found.

The YouGov survey showed that four out of five (80 percent) Conservative supporters want tougher transparency rules for companies headquartered in the UK or with a significant presence here, which Oxfam is calling on the Chancellor to commit to in next week’s Budget. The poll also showed overwhelming support among the wider public for action against tax avoidance.

Oxfam has calculated that implementing public country-by-country reporting for UK-based multinationals would cover one in five of the world’s biggest businesses, including listed companies that represent almost 60 percent of the market value of all large listed companies – some £32 trillion.

The Paradise Papers also highlighted the key role played by Britain’s overseas territories and crown dependencies, such as the British Virgin Islands and Jersey, in facilitating global tax avoidance. Almost two thirds (62 percent) of Conservative voters thought the UK Government had a responsibility to make these UK-linked jurisdictions more transparent about who owns and profits from companies registered there.

Apart from Montserrat, no overseas territory or crown dependency has agreed to the UK Government’s request to introduce public registers revealing who owns companies incorporated there – a pledge first made by David Cameron in 2013.

Katy Chakrabortty, Oxfam’s Head of Advocacy, said: “The Government sounds dangerously like it thinks it’s job done on tackling tax avoidance. But despite some positive steps, gaping loopholes mean the UK and developing countries continue to miss out on vital funds needed to support the poorest.

“This poll shows that the majority of the public, including Conservative supporters, think the Government should be doing more to tackle tax avoidance, including acting to ensure that our overseas territories and crown dependencies tear off the veils of secrecy that hide tax dodgers from public scrutiny.

“The good news is that the Government could make a real difference simply by implementing its existing policies. Ministers need to enforce the transparency they have asked for in our own tax havens.

“In his Budget statement the Chancellor should commit to implement the policy of public country by country reporting by the end of 2019, requiring UK-based multinationals to publish their tax payments in every country. By doing so, the UK would help to shine a light on corporate tax affairs and boost accountability far beyond our shores.”

The survey found that 74 percent of the British public thought the Government should be doing more to reduce corporate tax dodging, with 78 percent in favour of a requirement for multinationals to publish tax and profit information in each country where they operate. Almost two thirds (64 percent) thought the Government had a responsibility to make the overseas territories and crown dependencies more transparent about who owns and profits from companies registered there.

Economist Gabriel Zucman has estimated that wealthy British tax dodgers hold more than £170 billion in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, costing the Treasury around £5bn a year in lost revenues – money that could be used to fight poverty.

In poorer countries, a much greater proportion of the overall tax take comes from corporate taxes, the International Monetary Fund has found, making it particularly important to fund hospitals and schools. The world’s poorest regions are estimated to lose at least $170bn (£128bn) a year to tax avoidance by companies and wealthy individuals.

On Tuesday Oxfam will present a petition to Number 11 Downing Street, urging the Chancellor to act to end tax secrecy. Earlier this month Oxfam launched a hard-hitting film – ‘The Heist No One is Talking About’ – illustrating the human cost of tax avoidance on the world’s poorest.

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