Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Imagine the BBC coverage if it had been a senior Conservative politician

Imagine the BBC coverage if it had been a senior Conservative politician featured on the front page of The Times as having questionable tax avoidance actions to account (pun intended) for. The BBC would be headlining the story and the Conservative concerned would be being doorstepped and David Cameron and George Osborne would be being asked to condemn their colleague. 'Tory sleaze' would be the BBC headline and the outrage would be tangible.

However this Times story related to senior Labour MP (and Head of the Public Accounts Committee) Margaret Hodge. The Times has several pieces that are of special interest, first:
'... just under 96,000 Stemcor shares handed to Ms Hodge in 2011 came from [Liechtenstein], which is renowned for low tax rates. Three quarters of the shares in the family’s Liechtenstein trust had previously been held in Panama, which Ms Hodge described last month as “one of the most secretive jurisdictions” with “the least protection anywhere in the world against money laundering”. The veteran Labour MP was accused of sheer hypocrisy. She has repeatedly attacked big businesses and bankers who used offshore arrangements, but has not declared that she benefited from an offshore trust.'
But the extract that may be of most relevance is this:
'Ms Hodge's Stemcor shares were transferred onshore using the Liechenstein Declaration Facility LDF)... The LDF was established in 2009 to encourage people with undeclared income or unpaid taxes to repatriate their assets from Liechtenstein by offering favourable terms. Tax liabilities under the scheme need be declared back to 1999, rather than the standard 20-year period. Users must pay the back taxes due, plus interest for the period, but the penalty is set at 10 percent of the sum owed, rather than 100 percent, and there is no threat of criminal prosecution.'
When the BBC deign to cover this story, they will be probably be quoting Margaret Hodge or one of her BBC supporters, stating that all taxes due were in fact paid. I doubt that someone will raise the question of the LDF's 1999 limit and ask how much tax might have been due if the more usual 20-year period had been applied. Likewise how much penalty was saved by being applied at 10% rather than the normal 100%.

Here's what happens when you search the BBC new website for 'Margaret Hodge' this afternoon...

It's almost as though the BBC are deliberately trying to avoid any mention of this news story. Now why would they be doing that?

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