Parliament returned from the Easter Recess with the Government facing questions on their own Panama Scandal after the Panama Papers revealed tax avoidance on a grand scale. Politicians may not be responsible for past decisions by their family but as he acknowledged the Prime Minister failed to close down questions about his own financial affairs.
Whether this will herald in a Swedish approach where everyone’s tax returns are public or a more limited approach which will see the public peeking behind politicians curtains, time will tell. Ironically the point of tax avoidance surely is that information does not appear on tax returns. The question is not whether tax avoidance is legal and within the rules but whether the rules are strong enough. We can and should act in territories for which we are responsible and indeed in office we acted over the Turks and Caicos Islands because of financial wrongdoing.
Benjamin Franklin said the only two things certain in life are death and taxes. We all want better schools and hospitals, our streets kept safe and our country defended but in truth few relish paying tax. Taxation needs to be fair, transparent and unavoidable and politicians need to be trusted to spend our money wisely. What is worrying is that just 8% of people asked were surprised by what the Panama Papers revealed. When Governments act to close down tax loopholes then maybe that trust will grow.