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Clause 1 — Main rate of corporation tax for financial year 2011

Part of Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 12th July 2010.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 4:45 pm, 12th July 2010

I can only say that that is one of the reasons why I have raised the issue so consistently. I hope that some Government will address it, and will do so effectively. It is also why I have sought to amend the Bill in a consensual way. All I am asking is for the Treasury to produce a report setting out our best current estimate of the extent of avoidance and evasion, and to propose measures that the Government could take. That would be a way for the Government to demonstrate that they are taking the issue seriously and tackling it.

There have been other estimates of the tax gap that go beyond that of Richard Murphy, some of which are as high as £150 billion a year. Interestingly in respect of the Treasury's £40 billion figure, it estimated in a table it published earlier this year that corporation tax accounted for 16% of its tax gap and that capital gains tax along with national insurance contributions and so forth accounted for 6%, so the taxes this particular amendment addresses are significant contributors to the tax gap.

I fear that unless this issue is addressed we will continue to have a sterile debate in the House about cuts in public services, whereas if we tackled the tax gap we would avoid a significant amount of the public service cuts that will impact upon all our communities. I therefore urge that we have a serious debate and that the Treasury produces a report quantifying more exactly the levels of tax avoidance and tax evasion, and that we then look at possible measures-including, I agree, on simplification. Issues to do with what resources we apply to tackling tax evasion and avoidance are also of relevance, however, and that comes down to staffing.

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