Many constituents have contacted me since the release of the “Panama Papers” with concerns about the use of tax havens.

 

I am pleased that HMRC is already carrying out an intensive investigation of offshore companies, including in Panama, and has asked the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to share the leaked data. They will act on it swiftly and appropriately.

 

HMRC is also part of a taskforce dealing with the Panama Papers that it will jointly lead with the National Crime Agency. It will draw on investigators, compliance specialists and analysts from HMRC, the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority. The Prime Minister has committed initial new funding of up to £10 million to support the taskforce's work

 

Clearly there is more that can be done to tackle tax avoidance, evasion and other exploitations of the tax system. I am glad, therefore, that the Chancellor is working with other major countries to speed up progress towards sharing beneficial ownership information, so that enforcement agencies can share information on who really owns companies. This would allow for more effective investigation of financial wrongdoing.   The UK will also publish its own register of company beneficial ownership from June 2016, making it clear who the real owners of companies are, the first major country to have such a list in place; the information it contains will be free for anyone to access.  

 

I can assure constituents that the Government is committed to a proportionate, tailored response to improve global tax transparency, including in tax havens. Crown dependencies and overseas territories have already agreed to exchange taxpayer financial account information automatically, and will begin doing so from this September.  

 

They will also provide UK law enforcement and tax agencies with full access to information on the beneficial ownership of companies. The Government have finalised arrangements with all of them except for Anguilla and Guernsey, both of which Minister's believe will follow in the coming days and months.  This will place the overseas territories and Crown dependencies well ahead of many other similar jurisdictions, and also crucially ahead of many of the UK's major international partners, including some states in the United States of America.  

 

The Government will use the international anti-corruption summit on 12 May to encourage consensus not just on exchanging information, but on publishing such information and putting it into the public domain, as we are doing in the UK. Ministers want everyone with a stake in fighting corruption, from law enforcement, to civil society and the media, to be able to use those data and help the authorities root out and deter wrongdoing.   In relation to tax transparency, the Government drove forward the international work on country by country reporting, which provides more information to tax authorities, so that they can investigate larger companies' tax strategies.

 

By making UK-based multinationals publish their tax strategies, it will strongly discourage those who fail to comply with their tax duties. Progress from county by country reporting has seen the development of new measures to provide tax authorities with information on the global allocation of profits and taxes paid and accumulated by multinationals. Furthermore, a major focus of the UK's G8 Presidency was tax transparency and combatting offshore tax evasion. This is why the UK promoted the development of the Common Reporting Standard - an information standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information - to effectively tackle the global problem of tax evasion. Over 90 countries and authorities have now committed to the Common Reporting Standard which applies to all EU Member States to ensure consistency in application across all Member States.

 

The UK has been at the forefront of international action to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and evasion and since 2010 we have been reforming the tax system to make sure taxes are being paid, leading to companies changing their practices. Record amounts have been raised - with an extra £100 billion collected in the last Parliament.   Furthermore, HMRC collected £517.7 billion from UK taxpayers in 2014-15, some £11.9 billion more than in 2013-14. Total tax revenue has increased in each of the past 5 years, during which HMRC reduced its running costs from £3.4 billion to £3.1 billion. In the July 2015 Budget it was announced that HMRC would be given a further £800 million in order to collect an additional £7.2 billion in tax revenue from its compliance work between 2015 and 2020.

 

In the last Parliament alone we made an unprecedented 40 tax changes to close loopholes, raising £12 billion. In this Parliament we will legislate for more than 25 further measures, which are forecast to raise £16 billion by 2021. No British Government, Labour or Conservative, has ever taken so much robust action in this area.