Two days on from the Panama Papers leak, the Independent has revealed that HMRC – the government body responsible for collecting taxes – actually pays rent on its head office to a company based in a tax haven!
Eleven million documents were leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca on Monday highlight the extent to which UK residents and its institutions are taking advantage of tax havens such as Panama. Over half of the companies listed in the document cache are registered in the UK or UK-administered tax havens, with PM David Cameron caught up in the revelations along with six Conservative peers, three former MPs and several Tory donors.
But despite the prevalence of UK tax avoidance, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Office (HMRC) has only prosecuted 11 offshore tax evaders in the last five years. And to rub salt into the wound, it pays rent on its London headquarters to a tax swindling company!
HMRC’s HQ is rented from a company called CIHL Infrastructure Holdings which is registered in the tax haven of Jersey. What’s more, its 600 regional offices are rented from a company called Mapeley Steps Limited, which is registered in the tax haven Bermuda!
This is a result of the private finance initiative (PFI) introduced by the Conservatives in the early 90s, which allow companies to fund construction of buildings and infrastructure and then lease them to the public sector. Experts estimate that PFI deals will cost the country £209 billion over the next 35 years!