Last week was probably the Prime Minister’s toughest week in office to date. One thing has struck me is that very few people seem to understand the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance involves the use of legal methods to modify your financial situation in order to lower the amount of income tax owed, whereas tax evasion is the illegal non-payment or underpayment of tax. One is illegal, whereas the other is not. The Prime Minister is guilty of neither.
Over the weekend, I was at the Conservative Party Spring Forum where David Cameron gave a very emotional and heartfelt speech addressing the public concerns about his tax and earnings. Perhaps he could have made a lot of this clearer before this all erupted – though of course he and his family are entitled to some privacy – but he has done the decent thing and published information that wasn’t even necessary.
I will happily back our Prime Minister and my Party Leader on this. He was the first British national leader or political party leader to ever publicly publish tax return information. He said that he, not 'nameless advisors', was to blame for the handling of revelations about his holding in his late father's offshore fund. This is the kind of transparency and personal responsibility the public clearly want to see in our elected politicians today.
Let’s be clear: David Cameron has done more to tackle tax evasion than any other British Prime Minister.
Across the world, he has been pushing for greater tax transparency and is due to hold a summit on beating corruption of all kinds in London next month. The Government announced that it will set up a new task force led by HM Revenue and Customs and the National Crime Agency to investigate allegations of tax-dodging and money laundering. As the PM recently said:
"This government has done more than any other to take action against corruption in all its forms, but we will go further. That is why we will legislate this year to hold companies who fail to stop their employees facilitating tax evasion criminally liable."
Whilst people have the right to protest, I was angry to see hundreds of protesters outside our Spring Forum and Downing Street on Saturday morning. They have no sympathy towards the Prime Minister wanting to keep matters about his late father private. These lefties clearly used this as a selfish opportunity – like at last year’s party conference – to rant about government policy and disrespectfully throw loads of litter in prominent public places.
I think it is quite hypocritical for Labour's leader Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell to call for an "open and public" inquiry into the revelations. Especially when one of Labour's big banker-bashing heavyweights, Ken Livingstone, channelled £238,646 of earnings through a fake personal company, paying corporation tax of 20 or 21 per cent rather than income tax at up to 50 per cent.
Those who keep making a 'mountain out of a molehill' over this issue need to realise that the Prime Minister has taken the unprecedented set of publishing more tax data than was necessary of him. He has not broken the law. Sensible tax planning doesn’t make you a bad person. The PM is setting up a new task force to tackle illegal tax evasion and many of our political leaders have been publishing their tax and income information. The public needs to stop demonising wealth creation, aspiration and success – which are some of the vital bedrocks of our country – and instead focus on more important things such as the upcoming EU referendum, reducing the deficit and keeping our strong economy on track.
Joe Porter is a Parish Councillor in Staffordshire Moorlands, Chairman of Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Future, President of Keele Students for Britain and the Vote Leave Constituency Campaign Coordinator for Staffordshire Moorlands & Newcastle-Under-Lyme. He studies Marketing and Politics at Keele University, where he is a Trustee of Keele Student Union.