our parliamentary correspondent, Accountancy Age, Monday 20 September 2010 at 08:53:00

Party conference used to kick off campaign against avoidance and evasion


Chief Treasury secretary Danny Alexander has unveiled a 900m attack on "morally indefensible" tax avoidance and evasion expected to increase governmenttax revenues by 7bn a year.

The campaign was endorsed by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg at the LiberalDemocrat Party Conference in Bournemouth where he declared: "People who avoidand evade paying their taxes will no longer get away with either."

He said that for the richest people in the country to "dodge" their tax billswas as bad as benefit cheats and promised to be "tough on tax cheats too".

It was part of a political offensive to "sell" to party activists the needfor severe cuts in public spending to deal with the deficit.

In an historic first statement from the Treasury during a Lib Dem conferenceHMRC said the extra funding will be used to provide more robust criminaldeterrence against tax evasion, the creation of a new dedicated team ofinvestigators to crackdown on offshore tax evasion, the creation of bespokecyber crime teams and online specialists and more investment in freight anddetection technology to prevent alcohol and tobacco smuggling.

Alexander said in his keynote speech: "There are some people who seem tobelieve that not paying their fair share of tax is a lifestyle choice that issocially acceptable. It is not.

"Like the benefit cheat, their actions take resources from those who needthem most.

"Decisions we make in the spending review will ensure the taxman has theresources to be ruthless with those often wealthy people and businesses whothink they can treat paying tax as an optional extra.

"Tax avoidance and evasion are unacceptable in the best of times, but intoday's circumstances it is morally indefensible."

His comments were delivered the day Lord Ashcroft confirmed he will standdown as Deputy Conservative Chairman, blaming Tory leader David Cameron'sdecision to join the televised leaders' debate during the general electioncampaign for contributing to the party's failure to win an outright majority ina book "Minority Report" on the conduct of the campaign.

Ashcroft is believed to be unhappy his own position was not defended morestrongly by party leaders when it was revealed he had not been paying UK tax onall of his overseas business empire and was accused of reneging on a promise togive up "non dom" tax status as a condition for getting a peerage.