David Cameron Prepared To Publish Tax Returns

Posted: 11/04/2012 08:49 Updated: 11/04/2012 08:49

David Cameron is ready to publish details of his tax return amid controversy over whether senior politicians are paying their fair share.

The prime minister is understood to be "very happy" for the information to be released.

Chancellor George Osborne indicated last week that the government was considering whether ministers should be more transparent about personal tax.

He and other wealthy members of the coalition have faced intense pressure to say whether they benefited from the decision in the Budget to reduce the top rate from 50p to 45p.

The issue is also playing strongly in the London Mayoral race, where Labour candidate Ken Livingstone has been accused of channelling earnings through a corporation to minimise his tax bill. He insists there was nothing wrong with the arrangement.

Downing Street sources made clear that Osborne and Cameron discussed disclosing tax records before the Chancellor floated the idea in an interview last week.

The move would be unprecedented for a sitting prime minister.

But Cameron believes that people seeking the "highest office" should expect such scrutiny.

He apparently regards it as inevitable that Britain will follow in the footsteps of the US, where personal finances of senior figures are frequently released.

Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner to take on Barack Obama for the presidency this November, recently faced criticism after admitting he paid low rates on tens of millions of dollars in income.

Cameron earns £142,500 a year as prime minister.

However, it is thought that income from renting out his London property could push him above the £150,000 top tax threshold.

Osborne has said his earnings did not put him in the highest bracket in 2010-11.

Sources close to Cameron said: "The prime minister is relaxed about the idea of the tax returns of senior Cabinet Ministers being published - but wants the opportunity to explore how this might work."

After Osborne's announcement last week, a Labour Party spokesman said: "We're in favour of more openness and transparency in politics. We'll look at any proposals, and match anything the government actually does.

"The real issue now isn't anything as complicated as tax returns; it's ministers coming clean about whether they benefit themselves from the tax cut for millionaires introduced by George Osborne in his Budget.

"When they have decided to spend billions scrapping the 50p higher rate of tax, giving a tax break of over £40,000 to 14,000 millionaires, the least the members of the Cabinet can do is tell us if they are one of the tiny number of people who benefited from their change, and how large the windfalls they've received are."

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative chairman of the All Party Group on Tax, urged the government to commit to wholesale reform and simplification of the tax code.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I think what you do is change the rules to make sure (tax avoidance) can't be done.

"This is a far too complicated system. It's been set up by parliament, rightly so, over many years and it has got more and more complicated.

"What we need is coherent, cross-government way of dealing with tax evasion and to make sure we get it right.

"We need a lot more research into how we actually stop it ... we can sort this out, we can make it fair. There is a problem with philanthropy, we've got to sort that out, but let's make it fair for everybody across the United Kingdom."

Liddell-Grainger said the real issue was not how much tax MPs or the London mayoral candidates paid, but how much corporations, companies and extremely rich individuals paid.

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Filed by Ned Simons  |