David Cameron: 'Damn you, tax havens!'

The PM has penned a stiffly-worded letter to 10 overseas British territories demanding that they sign up to international tax treaties. 'Get your house in order!' he wrote.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 04 Mar 2015

David Cameron has appointed himself the ‘bully boy’ of tax enforcement. He has contacted the low tax regimes of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man among others to ask them to play fair with the UK.

His letter arrives a few weeks before the G8 summit in June, where the UK is planning to push for stricter international tax measures. Why the tax havens should feel even remotely obliged to comply, however, is still a mystery to MT.

Indeed, Cameron’s letter seems to rely on the, ‘please don’t make us look bad’ argument to try to convince these territories to stop aiding and abetting tax avoiders. ‘With one month to go, this is the crucial moment to get our own houses in order.  I respect your right to be lower tax jurisdictions... but lower taxes are only sustainable if what is owed is actually paid.’

Cameron is pushing for greater transparency from the tax havens, which stand accused of having ‘complex tax arrangements’. Cameron has asked them all to sign international protocols. These would allow tax information to be shared more easily between countries.

Put simply,’ he says, ‘that means we need to know who really owns and controls each and every company’ and ‘knock down the walls of company secrecy’.

But why is Cameron taking it upon himself to write personally to these havens? He’s hoping to cash in on the resultant good publicity, of course. The voting public is in uproar over companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks paying next to no corporation tax and Cameron is donning his cape and tights to play hero. The PM will also interrogate Google boss Eric Schmidt over its puny tax contributions in a private meeting at Downing Street later today.

‘I have made fighting the scourge of tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a priority,’ writes Cameron in his letter to the collection of low-tax regimes. But, as anyone who has ever written a letter of complaint knows, it’s unlikely Cameron will do much good. Besides, as heroes go, PayYourTaxMan doesn’t sound like the stuff of Marvel comics, does it?

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

How to find the right mentor or executive coach

One minute briefing: McDonald’s UK CEO Paul Pomroy.

What you don't want to copy from Silicon Valley

Workplace Evolution podcast: Twitter's former EMEA chief Bruce Daisley on Saturday emails, biased recruitment and...

Research: How the most effective CEOs spend their time

Do you prefer the big, cross-functional meeting or the one-to-one catch-up?

6 rules for leading a remote team

Our C-suite panel share their distilled wisdom.

Showing vulnerability can be a CEO’s greatest strength

Want your people to bring their whole selves to work? You first.

A mini case study in horizon scanning

Swissgrid has instituted smart risk management systems for spotting things that could go wrong before...