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Offshoring and tax evasion: the sinister culture of self-interest

By Jessica Warren

Tax. A word that isn’t too hugely associated with students, but a word that has recently been circulating the news for its avoidance, or more specifically, its loop-holes. The Paradise Papers have lately hit the news with a shocking list of high-profile figures involved, including the Queen, who funds a part of BrightHouse – a household goods store criticised for exploiting its customers. These revelations bring into question just how widespread the use of tax-loopholes are.

The Paradise Papers stem from a global leak of 13.4m files from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens’ company registries, and are currently being investigated by over 95 different media partners. Yet their revelation isn’t that of criminality, but instead, a culture of self-interest in the UK. Importantly, this is not the first time that papers of this kind have been leaked, with the Panama Papers hitting the tabloids last year. Clearly, very little has been achieved to crack down on this behavior in a year. Many of us aren’t clued into the ins and outs of offshore tax, mostly because we don’t have the funds to engage in it ourselves, but for the world’s elite, these schemes operate in a world free from scrutiny, until now.

Former PM, Gordon Brown has not withheld his opinion, stating that “they have got to outlaw these tax havens…they have got to punish them with, potentially, arrest warrants in some cases where people are breaking the law”. Where Brown’s viewpoint could be deemed idealistic, it pushes for a drastic change in the behavior of the rich elite across the country. Where offshoring began in the 70s as a method of hiding money from a corrupt and greedy government, it has spiraled into an organized system to benefit the already wealthy, where the rest of us suffer. Economist and Nobel prize winner Sir Angus Deaton has argued that “the existence of tax havens does not add to overall global wealth or wellbeing; they serve no useful economic purpose.”

This industrial-scale tax dodging should also concern students, who often face huge mountains of debt, and as such, ought not allow this gluttonous tax avoidance to continue. The Paradise Papers further revealed that near half of all Oxford colleges had investments offshore, including in fossil fuels. We must recognize that the wealthiest members of society hoarding their treasure like an evil dragon is not by accident, but through an engineered system. This system fails to contribute to the funding of already overstrained public services; by standing by, and allowing this to continue as we did after the release of the Panama Papers, we become complicit in the vast inequality we face every day.

Where many MP’s recognize that the NHS and other public services are struggling, they fail to address a key factor in this issue. These services are funded by the taxpayer, yet the money to effectively run these services is not available due to this large-scale tax avoidance. Evidently, we cannot allow ourselves to be complicit in this culture of self-interest and greed anymore. The elite should be punished for their immoral use of tax havens and offshoring.

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