One of the most shocking stories in the news this year has been the revelations about the extent to which our banking sector and Conservative politicians are complicit in tax avoidance. In an age of austerity, when we're seeing local government budgets slashed, benefits cut and vital services reduced to hollow-ed out shells, wealthy individuals refusing to pay their taxes simply isn't acceptable.
Until last month I worked for a small business and so I've seen up close how difficult it is in the current environment to keep afloat. Seeing large companies pay the bare minimum in tax is unfair not just to workers but to all those smaller businesses struggling to do right by their communities and their staff.
The Government has failed to tackle avoidance with the tax gap between what should be raised and revenue received now standing at £34 billion. HMRC has taken forward just one prosecution out of over 1,000 people with accounts at the Swiss branch of HSBC who are known to have not paid tax that was due and the Chancellor George Osborne has said it is nothing to do with him whether prosecutions are brought.
We also need to do more on clamping down on these services, which help individuals and businesses to avoid paying their fair share and we need to ensure our own tax rules don’t incentivise British companies to avoid tax in developing countries.
This in particular is something I'm very passionate about as my background in environmental and ethical finance brought me up against these issues constantly - we need a reformed business environment where businesses are incentivised to do the right thing by society, not just their shareholders.
Tax evasion and avoidance is just one small part of the picture here; I believe politicians need to think much more creatively about how we can make our business environment more long-term and here to serve society, rather than as we have seen over the last few years - the rest of us serving a bloated, short-termist financial sector.