UK Revenue and Customs loses billions in tax revenue each year due to tax avoidance and evasion. Meanwhile more than one in four of our children live in poverty, that is 3.5 million children. With an upward trend as a result of the coalition government's austerity policies this is expected to reach 4.7 million children by 2020. Millions of our children will go to sleep hungry whilst rich tax evaders feast themselves in some far away sun spot.
A lack of anti-avoidance tax law and cuts to public services are contributing to the UK's yawning tax gap. The difference between the tax that should be paid in the UK if the tax system worked as parliament and HMRC intended, and the amount actually paid is a staggering £119 bn. I will repeat that:
This is the figure produced by research commissioned by the Public and Commercial Services Union and published last year. Their research estimated that in 2013 the UK lost £73.4bn to tax evasion. Evasion is when a person or company deliberately and unlawfully fails to declare income for tax purposes. The official estimate is still a whacking £22.3 bn.
£22.3 bn a year!
Whatever figure we chose to believe it is a shocking indictment.
During the last five years of austerity measures the government has pursued 'benefit cheats' with determination and in doing so it has cut benefits for the deserving working poorest in our community. The bedroom tax has been forcing families out of their homes. The disabled have faced irresponsible assessments to determine their 'fitness to work'. Meanwhile the rich have been laughing all the way to the bank - literally so as the HSBC scandal demonstrates.
It seems there is no moral compass. They show no distinction between what is 'lawful' and what is 'ethical'.
So what is the government doing to pursue the tax cheats?
Last year HMRC closed all of its 281 Face to Face Enquiry Centres, months after it had also announced the loss of 8,000 jobs this year.
There is a clear question to be put to the leaders of all main political parties in the coming general election: what are you going to do to ensure that the rich are paying the taxes that are due?
Read Ray'a Novel: It wasn't always late summer