Finance Bill: Labour MPs Condemn 'Feeble' Tax Avoidance Laws

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Caroline Flint and Rebecca Long-Bailey have called for the Government to step up tax avoidance laws ahead of today’s Finance Bill.

Writing in the Huffington Post, the Labour MPs called current laws was “feeble”, and said they allowed multinational companies to dodge payments in the UK.

The report stage of the Finance Bill, which will measures announced in the budget into effect, kicks off the new parliamentary season today.

Long-Bailey said: “So, what have the Tories done to fight tax avoidance? It introduced a rule - called the General Anti-Avoidance Rule - in 2013. However, this rule is far too narrow. It only deals with ‘abusive’ avoidance schemes which are not done for ‘reasonable’ purposes. It does not even start to address the problem.”

“By contrast, Labour is proposing a root-and-branch public inquiry into tax avoidance. We will examine all of the ways tax is lost.”

“The next Labour government will scrap the weak Tory anti-avoidance rule. We will replace it with a broader anti-avoidance principle which will empower the courts to neuter tax avoidance schemes. As experts have found, a broader principle is difficult to avoid precisely because it is so flexible.”

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Flint wrote that the bill should require companies to put tax information the public domain.

“They have to report this data to HMRC already. But publishing it, well that would tilt the scales away from secrecy and help Governments both here and elsewhere.”

She said the government already supports the principle, and called for it to support her proposal.

“In June, The measure had the backing of almost the entire membership of the cross party Public Accounts Committee.”

“I hope the Government see this amendment as a positive, pro-business measure, accept it, and allow all sides of the Commons to come together with one voice.”

In the bill today ministers will consider proposals for penalising those advising on tax avoidance schemes that have been disallowed by HM Revenue & Customs.

The proposals follow the budget announcement that the government would "explore options to introduce downsides for those who enable tax avoidance".