Lib Dems launch avoidance crackdown

Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister

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

The campaign was endorsed by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg at the Liberal
Democrat Party Conference in Liverpool where he declared: “People who avoid and
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 bills
was 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 need
for severe cuts in public spending to deal with the deficit.

In an historic first statement from the Treasury during a Lib Dem conference,
HMRC said the extra funding will be used to provide more robust criminal
deterrence against tax evasion, the creation of a new dedicated team of
investigators to crackdown on offshore tax evasion, the creation of bespoke
cyber crime teams and online specialists and more investment in freight and
detection technology to prevent alcohol and tobacco smuggling.

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

“Like the benefit cheat, their actions take resources from those who need
them most.

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

“Tax avoidance and evasion are unacceptable in the best of times, but in
today’s circumstances it is morally indefensible.”

His comments were delivered the day Lord Ashcroft confirmed he will stand
down as deputy Conservative chairman, blaming Tory leader David Cameron’s
decision to join the televised leaders’ debate during the general election
campaign for contributing to the party’s failure to win an outright majority in
a book, ‘Minority Report’, on the conduct of the campaign.

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

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