After last week's Panama Papers storm, Westminster has been drenched again this week in a tax return deluge.
Yes, infected with a new found love of transparency, our nation's politicians have been queuing up to release their tax returns. At AccountingWEB we can’t help but feel sorry for the accountants who thought they had seen the back of tax returns for a little while after surviving self assessment season.
As the House of Commons held a tax return measuring contest, accountants were probably curled up in a ball – hiding from the zombie tax returns rising from of their HMRC graves.
David Cameron was the first of the bunch to release his tax return (or to be more accurate: a tax summary) in an attempt to silence the criticism he faced after news of his father’s Blairmore trust poured out of the Panama Papers leak.
Following Cameron's lead, a veritable conga line of Westminster's leading lights also released their tax returns/summary. Or, in Corbyn’s case, haphazardly scrambled through their bottom desk drawer to retrieve their well-thumbed paper return.
Soon after, politicians were seen cradling their tax returns, like a parent showing off their little one – searching for their critics to coo over their transparency. All this really achieved was was a nationwide game of tax return top trumps (“I raise you Boris Johnson, income tax paid £276,505…).
Outside of learning how Boris Johnson earns £266,667 from writing his Daily Telegraph column, what did the tax returns prove? Not a lot, really. As TaxTV’s Giles Mooney quipped on Twitter, “Publishing UK tax return to show you've not hidden anything is like me showing you a picture of salad to prove I've given up cake”.
Some of the AccountingWEB community also dismissed the tax return stunt. Although Cameron said he had other capital gains, Shirley M couldn’t find these declared on the PM’s tax summary. “I guess we have to take his word that he has disclosed everything, but he is only honest when pushed (It's a private matter!),” she said.
However, this didn’t stop either side of the dispatch box using the tax returns as political ammunition. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pension contributions were called into question, while others slapped him on the wrist for filing late – which his press team blamed on his lack of accountant. While Cameron’s £200,000 tax planning gift from his mother which could be used to avoiding inheritance tax opened him up for further scrutiny.
Earlier this year Accounting WEB gave John McDonnell a bit of stick for his tax return stunt, but in retrospect, McDonnell’s tax return appears more transparent than others – at least he included his pension contributions when others did not.
So John - we're sorry.
What’s your take on the politician’s tax return? Are we moving towards the Scandinavian model where everyone’s tax information is available? Or does it really matter?
Why don't you play tax return top trumps at home with this handy infographic: