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Willfully missing the point

Today’s Guardian hand-wringing session on the “Panama Papers” includes this piece, called,  “Panama Papers: 10 ways for the UK to get its house in order”. One of the ten is the following.

Root corrupt money out of the UK property market and reveal the true holders of the keys to UK homes.” The files include the details of 2,800 secret companies, or “vehicles”, linked to 6,000 title deeds worth more than £7bn in the UK. Historical data from UK law enforcement has confirmed that anonymous companies like these are the main vehicles used by corrupt individuals to launder illicit funds into the UK property market. Overseas companies should declare who really owns them before purchasing UK property.”

This is interesting in that it does at least refer to title deeds. But it ignores the fact that residential property in central London, ie in the boroughs of Westminster and Kensington, and Chelsea, is subject only to Band G Council Tax, a trivial amount in relation to its value.

If this property was taxed at realistic rates, preferably on the basis of the value of the land it is standing on, the land titles would be of no interest to anyone unless they wanted to live in it. Given effective property taxation, the offshore funds would stay away. It is successive UK governments that have created and sustained the real tax havens, which are not in Panama but in the middle of London. It is a pity that the Guardian journalists, in this case Ed Vulliamy, cannot see what ought to be blindingly obvious. One has to ask why, and why, too, and strikingly, no article on this subject is open to comment.