Politicians publish tax returns in transparency drive after Panama Papers

David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, George Osborne and Boris Johnson have all published details of tax they have paid in recent years, as one Conservative MP suggests all MPs will have to do so in future.

Will more light be shed on Westminster? (Credit: Davide D'Amico via Flickr)
Will more light be shed on Westminster? (Credit: Davide D'Amico via Flickr)

Information on tax paid by Cameron over the past six years was posted on Gov.uk on Sunday, after the Prime Minister had faced a week of questions over his tax affairs, and was criticised for his handling of this scrutiny in the wake of revelations about his father in the Panama Papers leaks.

A letter from Chancellor George Osborne's accountant outlining his tax payments for 2014/15 was published yesterday, while the Mayor of London's website posted information about Johnson's tax for each of the past four years.

Corbyn is the only one of the quartet to have published his full tax return online, which has led to embarrassment for the opposition leader - having filed a week late, he was dubbed this morning "the first top UK politician to be caught doing anything wrong since the scandal over offshore tax havens broke". He was fined £100 for this transgression.

The Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday told the BBC that he imagined all politicians would feel compelled to publish their tax returns within the next few years, saying this loss of privacy was regrettable, but "to some extent it is politicians' fault because we lost the trust of the public".

Chris Rumfitt, founder and CEO of Field Consulting and formerly Edelman's UK public affairs chief, commented: "The media splash of the Panama Papers has been huge and they have had a real impact in that the precedent in terms of publication of senior politicians' tax returns will be impossible to row back upon. But a real boon for transparency? A tax return only tells us what’s on it, not what isn’t. It feels like there’s been a lot more heat than light."

The Independent dubbed yesterday "tax transparency day in the Commons", while one journalist was cynical as to how far this new interest in transparency would spread.

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