Leading charity renews call for UK government to end tax haven loophole
New figures show Britain’s richest continue to accrue wealth at the expense of the country’s poorest.
A report by Oxfam shows the richest 1% of the UK population has captured more than a quarter of the £4 trillion increase in national wealth since 2000 as the poorest continue to struggle to make ends meet.
Ending the Era of Tax Havens, published ahead of Wednesday’s budget, calls for a crackdown on bolt holes that enable rich individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share of tax in the UK and in some of the world’s poorest countries.
It is 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.
Globally, governments are believed to be losing $190bn (£120bn) annually, with the world’s poorest regions losing at least $70bn (£43bn).
One in five people in the UK today are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes. More people are using foodbanks than ever before, with more than one million emergency food parcels distributed in the last year, the charity says.
In Scotland, nearly one in five people living in poverty. Alongside this, official statistics show the poorest 20% own less than 1% of Scotland’s collective household wealth, while the richest 20% own around 63%.
It’s simply not right that a tiny group of individuals hoover up so much of the UK’s growing prosperity
In October, Oxfam Scotland outlined nine policy areas where the Scottish Parliament can also do more to build a more equal Scotland in a more equal world, in order to reduce poverty.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam chief executive, said: “Currently, a privileged minority are able to hide billions offshore away from tax authorities, which unfairly increases the burden on the rest - especially people who are already struggling to get by.
“It’s time the UK government ended the secrecy that allows tax dodgers to get away without paying their fair share, robbing the UK – and poor countries – of vital revenue that could help fund public services and provide a strong safety net for the most vulnerable.
“It’s simply not right that a tiny group of individuals hoover up so much of the UK’s growing prosperity while barely any trickles down to those who have least.
“We need action to ensure that a rise in wealth is more evenly shared in order to combat poverty and ensure everyone gets a fair share.”
Since 2000, the total net wealth in real terms of people in the UK has increased from £6tr to more than £10tr in 2015. Oxfam's findings show that 26 pence in every pound of this increase in wealth went to the UK’s top 1% – approximately 600,000 people – while just seven pence went to the nation’s poorest 50%, around 30 million people.
Oxfam is calling on the UK government to do more to clamp down on tax dodging by the super-rich by ensuring UK-linked tax havens reveal the real beneficiaries of shell companies registered there, ahead of an Anti-Corruption Summit in London in May.