Get tougher on tax cheats, politicians urged

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Tax avoidance has become a key election battleground, with political parties keen to stress their commitment to tackling the problem.

Incidents such as the HSBC offshore scandal have hardened public opinion, while widespread anger against multinationals like Google, Amazon and Starbucks has led to calls for a boycott. HMRC has also got in on the act, with a series of crackdowns against celebrities and other high earners.

Politicians have been swift to jump on the bandwagon, with Labour and the Conservatives promising to rake in £6.7 billion and £4.6 billion respectively from tougher tax avoidance measures – figures the Institute of Fiscal Studies called “aspirational”.

However if the parties think they’re doing enough, they are likely to be disappointed. A recent ComRes poll reveals that almost three-fifths (58%) of people in key election seats think more action is needed to tackle tax avoidance.

The survey, carried out in conjunction with the Tax Dodging Bill campaign also found that 84% of people think it is still too easy for multinationals to avoid paying their dues in the UK. A similar proportion (81%) said dodging by large companies in developing nations harmed people living in those countries.

Jenny Ricks, head of campaigns at ActionAid, said: “This poll shows that widespread anger about corporate tax avoidance both in the UK and in poor countries is showing no signs of going away.

“People still don’t believe that the promises made by political parties on tackling tax dodging go far enough. Pressure is mounting on all parties to act. That’s why the next government must introduce a tax-dodging bill – it could bring in billions in the UK and poor countries – money badly needed to fight poverty.”

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