I’ve had a number of emails about the revelation that HSBC has helped many wealthy individuals avoid paying tax asking how I would respond.
As the home of HSBC’s predecessor, the Midland Bank, this is a big issue for Sheffield. And it’s important to remember that the vast majority of HSBC staff work with the utmost integrity. For the sake of the diligent and upright staff, and the reputation of the financial sector as a whole, we have to address this enormously serious issue.
If the government was as concerned about tax avoidance as they are about benefit fraud then we would have much less of an issue with inequality than we do now and a much stronger economy. It’s scandalous that so many wealthy individuals and corporations who do business in the UK fail to pay a fair amount of tax while the poorest and most vulnerable are pursued with such venom.
With respect to how we might tackle tax dodging I’d suggest two things –
– that we close the loopholes that allow overseas-based businesses to avoid paying tax on their UK sales and income
– that we stop the ridiculous situation whereby commercial organisations such as banks and accountancy firms are given the responsibility to draft tax legislation and systems only to take that inside knowledge back to their clients. I think our tax rules should be constructed on behalf of the nation and in the interests of UK citizens by experts without a conflict of interest.
I believe a significant part of the problem and the reason that this issue hasn’t been fully addressed is the way political parties are funded (for example, the Tories have received £875,000 from senior HSBC staff) – Parties tend to act in, or at least protect, the interests of their sponsors rather than the electorate. It is one of the reasons that I’m standing as an independent – I want to act on behalf of the people of Sheffield Hallam rather than some corporate paymaster.