Tackling tax havens welcome in Scotland

Land reform plans are well supported in Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Land reform plans are well supported in Scotland. Picture: Contributed

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ANY MOVES towards tackling tax havens are welcome, says Jim Orr

Earlier this year Scottish Government plans to restrict land ownership in Scotland only to EU registered people or entities were very well received with 82 per cent of consultation respondents recorded as supportive.

These proposals would improve transparency and accountability so that we’d know who owns what parts of our country, and evasion of inheritance and other taxes would be much more difficult. If the Scottish Government is successful, this could set an important precedent for policy direction UK-wide, particularly in the context of a seemingly inexorable increase in offshore (or “tax haven”) registration of UK companies and assets.

Our Westminster government has long tolerated and supported the growth of the tax haven culture, as evidenced by the fact that many of the most prominent ones are either British Overseas Territories with UK-appointed governors (like the Cayman or Virgin Islands) or non-EU territories like the Channel Islands which openly market themselves as extensions of the City of London.

It is a pretence that the UK is unable to influence them. In reality the relationship with the City is largely symbiotic but still damaging to our national prosperity. The cost to the UK Treasury is many billions of pounds in unpaid tax every year.

The cost worldwide is multiplied accordingly. Developing countries also lose billions of pounds every year as the proceeds of natural and other resources are exported in secret through tax havens.

Unscrupulous dictators have even been known to siphon international aid funds into private offshore accounts.

More recently, the BBC reported that about 36,000 properties in London are owned by offshore firms with much of this wealth known to come from the laundered proceeds of dubious or criminal activities abroad.

• Jim Orr is an independent city councillor in Edinburgh

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