‘Tax banks to save public services'

22 March 2010 - 12:49pm
Press release

 

NEWS PEG: Wednesday, 24 March 2010 British chancellor Alistair Darling presents last pre-election budget

FOR IMMEDIATE USE: Monday, 22 March 2010


Labour challenged to match Tory tax pledge

British chancellor Alistair Darling today faces pressure to impose a tax on banks' currency transactions to stave off cuts in public services and to raise money for overseas development.

The anti-poverty charity War on Want calls on Darling to announce the new levy on Wednesday (24 March) when he delivers Labour's final budget before the general election.

War on Want points to David Cameron's promise at the weekend to introduce a unilateral tax on banks if the Conservatives win the election, rather than wait for international agreement.

John Hilary, the charity's executive director, said: "Gordon Brown has talked up his support for a tax on financial transactions, but has taken no action on it. Now the Tories have called his bluff. This is the Labour government's last chance to prove its commitment to social justice. It cannot afford to fail."

Based on detailed technical work carried out over several years, War on Want rejects government claims that any tax on sterling must wait for international agreement.

Instead the charity is calling for a budget statement in support of a 0.005 per cent stamp duty on sterling transactions – equivalent to only 5p for each £1000 traded.

Research for War on Want and London University shows that taxing banks on their sterling transactions would raise £3 billion.

The charity also calls on Darling to help fund public services by reversing cuts of 25,000 tax staff jobs and the closure of 200 tax offices, which could save money lost in tax avoidance, evasion or uncollected tax.

The UK loses an estimated £123 billion a year through tax dodges – more than enough to plug the gap in Britain's finances without resorting to public sector cuts.

The demand by War on Want comes only days after claims that Lloyds – now 41 per cent owned by Britons after its government-backed takeover of HBOS – exaggerated its profits by almost £1 billion through tax avoidance.

According to War on Want, developing countries lose an estimated £250 billion a year as a direct result of corporate tax dodging - money which could be used to reach the UN millennium development goals several times over.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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