Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Panama Papers and Canterbury District's tax avoiders

With the ramifications of the Panama Papers starting to be felt everywhere, Canterbury District Greens have called on property owners in the District who are registered overseas for tax purposes to clarify how much tax they pay and to whom.
In September 2015, Private Eye published its register of properties in England and Wales owned by companies based in tax havens all over the world. Most are held in this way for tax avoidance and often to conceal dubious wealth.
Michelle Freeman, Press Officer of Canterbury District Green Party, commented: "According to this information, as many as 87 properties in Canterbury's CT1 area alone have been bought by offshore companies at a cost of £323m. 
"All these companies are acting within the current law, but this allows them to operate out of places where their tax burden is likely to be significantly lighter than in the UK. While the UK government continues to cut support for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, it is allowing companies to minimise the amount of tax they pay to the UK Treasury."
Land Registry data (https://datasets.landregistry.gov.uk/overseas/dataset) show that trustees registered in Jersey own the Whitefriars Development, the Marlowe Arcade and its bridge link, worth over a quarter of a billion pounds in total according to Private Eye. The same sources also indicate that these trustees own over £50m worth of property in the same area.
The Greens' Press Officer noted: "As well as the owners of these units paying little or no UK tax, most of the retailer tenants are multinationals, which have a reputation for paying little tax in the UK. In other words, profits made in Canterbury are mainly squirrelled away in tax havens with very little benefit to Canterbury residents. If these shops were owned and operated by local independents, as many still are in Whitstable, those profits could be ploughed back into the local community.
"The same is true of companies owning student accommodation in Canterbury. A company registered in Guernsey is currently building student accommodation on the former Peugeot site and we now hear that the 800-bedroom student complex in Parham Road has been acquired for a Kuwaiti company, which will be developing a further large site for the same purpose. Apart from the fact that profits will not be reinvested in Canterbury by these offshore owners, the Council will receive nothing from their tenants either, as students pay no council tax."
It is not just property in Canterbury which has been the target for offshore companies. The Signature Miramar Care Home in Herne Bay has over £170m worth of its property owned by a company registered in Luxembourg according to Land Registry and Private Eye data.
Canterbury District Greens' Press Officer commented: “We think this is all morally wrong. We want to see companies owning property or operating in the UK registered here and paying the full UK tax requirements. We would like to know how much offshore tax these companies pay and to know how much the Treasury would expect if they were registered in the UK.”
Notes:
http://www.private-eye.co.uk/registry data collected from 2005 to 2014