Cameron Defends Tax Affairs to Lawmakers After Panama Files

  • Prime minister says he was `angry' at stories about his father
  • Labour's Corbyn says public is angry about tax evasion

Cameron Responds to Parliament Critics Over Tax Affairs

U.K Prime Minister David Cameron defended his tax affairs to Parliament, telling lawmakers he’d been slow to respond to questions because of anger at seeing his late father’s name attached to stories about offshore evasion.

After a week that saw him move from describing stories about tax as old news to releasing an unprecedented level of detail about his own affairs, the prime minister said Monday he’d sold all his shareholdings in 2010 when he became prime minister because he didn’t want “any conflict of interest.”

“I didn’t want anyone to be able to suggest that as prime minister I had any other agendas or vested interests,” Cameron said. He said he’d handled the disclosures badly because he was “angry about the way my father’s memory was being traduced.”

Cameron published details of the taxes he’s paid since 2009 on Sunday after a week of negative headlines prompted by documents leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca linking his father, Ian, to an offshore investment fund. The prime minister said his father “was a hard-working man and a wonderful dad, and I’m proud of everything he did to build a business and provide for his family.”

Company Dividends

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne followed Cameron on Monday by publishing his most recent U.K. tax return. Osborne earned 198,738 pounds ($283,700) with 44,647 pounds of earnings coming from dividends derived from the family’s luxury home-decorating company, Osborne & Little, according to the document published on the Treasury’s website. He paid 72,210 pounds in tax. The earnings compare with 200,307 pounds for the prime minister for the same period.

The U.K. reverberations were among the political fallout from the Panama leaks that have triggered the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister, a confidence vote in Malta later this week, street protests in Norway and a pledge by Argentine President Mauricio Macri to put his assets in a blind trust.

The European Union will announce proposals on Tuesday for how to require large companies to make public what they pay in tax in each of the 28 EU countries, and global finance ministers are expected to discuss evasion when they gather in Washington later this week for the International Monetary Fund’s spring meeting.

‘So Angry’

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the reason “people are so angry” about tax evasion was that “we’ve gone through six years of crushing austerity” under Cameron’s premiership.

Corbyn also published his tax return for the 2014-15 tax year. The handwritten form, e-mailed by Labour, showed he paid income tax of 18,912 pounds on a salary of 70,795 pounds. His other taxable income totaled 1,850 pounds, including 1,350 pounds from lectures. Corbyn was fined 100 pounds for submitting the return late, the party said.

Cameron said he doesn’t believe most lawmakers should be forced to make their returns public.

‘Strong Case’

“We should think carefully before abandoning completely all taxpayer confidentiality in this house as some have suggested,” he said. “I think there is a strong case for the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, and for the chancellor and shadow chancellor, because they are people who are or who wish to be responsible for the nation’s finances.”

The prime minister said most U.K. overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands would now share information on company ownership there with the British authorities to cut down on possibilities for tax avoidance.

“For the first time U.K. police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company incorporated in these territories -- Bermuda, Isle of Man, Jersey, the lot,” Cameron said.

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