The SKWAWKBOX has exposed the false claims over the last day or so about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s tax return, which he published in full, as media and right-wing politicians of both major parties have sought to turn Corbyn into the story to deflect attention from the refusal of Chancellor Philip Hammond to reveal his own tax return – and the extraordinary contortions Theresa May has gone to in order to support Hammond’s attempt to avoid scrutiny.
In spite of the Chancellor’s wriggling, some details that may give a flavour of what we’d see if his tax affairs were made public are already in the public domain – albeit probably long-forgotten by most.
In October 2010, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme dug into the tax schemes of the hugely rich, such as reviled ex-BHS owner Philip Green. It also revealed details of a particular minister in the then-coalition government: one Philip Hammond.
In the programme, which can be viewed below, Dispatches highlighted:
- dividends he had paid to himself instead of salary, saving in a single year around £130,000 on dividend income of £1.75 million
- the transfer of 40% of his shareholding in his property business to his wife to save around £26,000 a year in tax – and potentially millions if he ever sells the business
- the fact that his dividend payments do not have to be declared as outside earnings in the parliamentary Register of Members’ Interests, bec ause they don’t count as salary
The Dispatches revelations seem to be examples, rather than an exhaustive list – and indeed, Hammond was also criticised in 2014 for avoiding tax by transferring his shares in a buy-to-let property to his wife. So it’s hard to imagine that there are not more – perhaps many more – tricks and schemes that he has used over the years to avoid paying into the Treasury what most of us might consider a ‘fair share’.
There is no suggestion at the moment that Philip Hammond has done anything illegal. But since former PM David Cameron coined the term ‘aggressive tax avoidance’ as a moral evil that the Tories were supposedly going to tackle and never did, the revelation of even participation in such legal tax-avoiding schemes would be extremely politically damaging to Hammond and potentially to Theresa May’s government.
The problem Mr Hammond faces is that, while he refuses to disclose his tax affairs, the public is entitled to speculate just what exactly he’s so keen to hide – and, given the extraordinary lengths Theresa May has already gone to in order to support his attempts to do so, to speculate that it may be significant and significantly damaging.
Watch the Dispatches footage and decide for yourself:
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