It seems nothing will prevent tax avoidance by the super-rich, but as Bristolians we can opt out of the system altogether.
It’s been 18 months since the scandal of the Panama Papers revealed the astonishing scale to which the super-rich hide their wealth, avoiding tax with the help of offshore law firms and accountants. As news breaks this morning of the leaked Paradise Papers, many in the UK will feel furious. Whilst ordinary people suffer crippling austerity, the rich pay huge amounts to lawyers and accountants willing to push the limits of every tax law to avoid paying the tax used for vital public services.
The papers cast light on the activity of politicians, sports stars, celebrities and some of the biggest companies doing business in the UK. Even the Queen is caught up in the scandal; the Queen’s private estate has invested millions of pounds in a Cayman Islands fund as part of an offshore portfolio which avoids tax. This includes investment in the retailer BrightHouse, which after investigation from the Financial Conduct Authority was deemed an irresponsible lender. There is some sick irony in the Queen holding investments in a business heavily criticised for exploiting thousands of poor families and vulnerable people.
The practice of tax avoidance is estimated to see at least $600bn in profits moved offshore each year. Offshore law firms will assist individuals to hide their wealth, by listing valuable assets like private jets, yachts and trust funds into offshore companies, so that money can be funnelled into places that charge zero tax and ask few questions.
Whilst none of this activity is technically illegal, it is unquestionably immoral at a time when ordinary people are being told to sacrifice what little they have to help meet the national deficit and fulfil the myth of austerity. We should continue to ask for a reformation of our laws around tax evasion, but we should also question our banking system, which actively encourages the hoarding of wealth by a small minority.
We can feel completely powerless, but for Bristolians there is something you can do about it right now. If you use Bristol Pounds, you know that your money is staying in the local economy, working to support the communities who live here. By supporting independent businesses, we can grow our local economy and funnel our wealth away from giant corporations who would see it returned to the pockets of the rich. Alternative currencies are structured around the radical notion that the economy should be equal and fair. It is an alternative beacon of light in a time of darkness, and you are more than welcome to join us.
Already a member of Bristol Pound? Register for our annual meeting on 28th November, Local Currencies: the Rebellious Act, where we’ll be discussing the growing network of alternatives available for us to engage with.