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Should our politicians hand over their tax returns?

The annual cry for politicians to offer up their tax returns is upon us. Philip Fisher ponders whether Donald Trump will finally hand over his returns and if Boris Johnson should get a decent financial adviser.

18th Sep 2019
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Memory sometimes fails me but I could have sworn that Donald Trump, practically kicking and screaming against the proposition, promised to open up his tax return to public scrutiny just after he was elected.

I was reminded of this because three years on, it appears that the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has subpoenaed those very documents from Mazars.

That distinguished firm has very sensibly agreed that it will comply with its legal obligations. One imagines that these weasel words mean slightly more than they say ie they will deliver the tax returns for inspection and audit rather than arguing the toss over legal definitions.

Whether the Manhattan DA will then be able to send or sell these on to the New York Times or National Enquirer is another matter.

Given the President’s reluctance to share information, there could well be some juicy morsels hidden not too far beneath the surface.

This development set me to thinking. If the Americans require their presidents to offer up their tax returns to the public, then shouldn’t our politicians do the same?

Once again, I have a vague recollection that several of them have offered to do so in the not-too-distant past. Whether they actually delivered on the promises is another matter.

Many of us may have misgivings about some of Boris Johnson’s policies and his manner of enforcing them. Indeed, as this article is being finalised, 11 Supreme Court judges are trying to determine whether his decision to ride roughshod over Parliament by closing it down should be reversed.

However, to be fair to Mr Johnson, when he was Mayor of London in 2016, his tax return headlines were made public. It would be good to see him continuing with this precedent.

You can be pretty certain that his income as a Daily Telegraph columnist will be declared but whether this continues to be categorised as self-employment is an interesting technical point, given the volume and regularity of output, and level of payment. Indeed, for all we know, HMRC might be investigating this very point as I write.

In common with so many of our favourite clients, you can’t help but wonder whether given free rein the distinguished journalist might prefer to avoid declaring his income from the moonlighting job at Number 10, instead taking his chances that they might gently slip beneath the radar?

I know nothing at all about the Johnson financial situation but it would seem very odd if our leader continues to have no significant sources of investment income (under £700 in 2014/15), given that he declared over £612,000 of annual income five years ago.

You have to wonder whether he might not be taking advantage of at least one and quite possibly a number of tax avoidance schemes of the type that a series of former Conservative Chancellors of the Exchequer from the recent past have declared to be abusive and unacceptable.

Either that or Mr J could do with a good financial adviser.

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By AndyC555
19th Sep 2019 10:27

I certainly think that anyone campaigning for more tax transparency and 'tax justice' should be prepared to publish their own personal tax returns.

It's a matter of public record that tax campaigner Richard Murphy has frequently been challenged to publish his own personal tax returns and has repeatedly refused to do so.

Has he got anything to hide? I guess we will never know.

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By flightdeck
19th Sep 2019 11:20

I have mixed feelings on this. If we suspect misconduct then go through the proper channels. If we do not then its none of our business. As an aside I see JC publishes his tax returns which usually show zero or very little interest earnings. He comes from a wealthy family, earns 4x the UK average salary, must have paid off his mortgage long ago, kids are grown up, don't see him driving a car, eats beans not meat etc etc so maybe he needs a financial adviser too! Or shall we suspect that he must have his spare cash in some kind of tax avoidance scheme? But I don't suspect that of it him in the least. I do suspect Bojo lives a more active life and might run through money but that's none of my business.

I would however like to see all MPs expense claims.

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By Rgab1947
20th Sep 2019 14:19

No!

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