The powers to tackle avoidance and evasion for almost all taxes, including Income Tax, lie at Westminster. We have consistently called for greater tax transparency and stronger action from the Tory government on avoidance and evasion.
According to HMRC, £6.9 billion of tax revenue was lost to public services in 2015-16 because of tax avoidance and evasion. Yet latest figures show how little priority the Tories place on the issue: HMRC employ just 522 staff to tackle tax evasion by the super-rich but the DWP employ 4,045 to tackle benefit fraud.
We want the UK government to take much tougher action on tax avoidance, including:
- a moratorium and review of the closure of HMRC offices in Scotland and across the UK;
- a full and immediate response to the review into Scottish Limited Partnerships;
- enhanced protection for whistle blowers exposing tax criminality;
- simplifying the UK tax code to close exploitative loopholes such as the Mayfair Loophole;
- action to make the beneficial ownership of companies and trusts public;
- further measures to improve the transparency of tax paid by major international companies; and
- new action to tackle international tax avoidance.
If the UK government is unwilling to take the action that is required, they should devolve the powers required to the Scottish Parliament so we can act.
Where we have the powers to do so in Scotland, we’ve acted to stop tax avoidance. When introducing new devolved taxes, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Landfill Tax, we introduced a General Anti-Avoidance Rule that goes much further than the equivalent UK rule and further targeted rules to tackle avoidance.
We are also taking all possible steps to ensure that companies that engage in unacceptable practices like tax evasion do not benefit from public procurement. As part of our Land Reform programme, we will also end the practice revealed in the infamous Panama Papers of anonymous ownership of major tracts of Scotland’s land by introducing a mandatory, public register of controlling interests in landowners or tenants.