Should candidates have to publish their tax status?


1:45 pm - March 26th 2010

by Mark Pack    


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Last year, the Committee on Standards in Public Life made one of those simple suggestions which make you think, “Why haven’t people been suggesting this for years?”

Their proposal was that in a general election candidates should have to make the same sort of declaration of financial interests as MPs have to make. After all, if the point of such declarations is to have some transparency and let people judge politicians, doesn’t it make sense to provide that information to the public before we decide how to vote rather than only telling us afterwards whether perhaps we should regret our vote?

In an all too rare acknowledgement of the problems of changing election law at the last moment, the Ministry of Justice said it was too late to change the law in time for the 2010 general election. However, rather quietly a few days ago the department instead slipped out a recommended set of financial declarations that candidates, if they choose, can make.

Producing this voluntary scheme so close to the election is not exactly ideal, but even worse the scheme goes significantly beyond what MPs have to declare. Rather than keeping to the Committee’s logic that candidates should declare what they would have to declare anyway if they won, the MoJ has added in some further ideas. All without debate or cross-party agreement.

The Ministry has also rather stumbled both by making some errors in the document and by its means of sending it out. As one recipient pointed out:

Amusingly, in sending the code by email to PPCs (and to me as an agent), the Ministry of Justice broke the first law of data protection in mass mailings, by identifying the email addresses of every recipient!

However the real meat of controversy is likely to be over non-doms as candidates are asked to declare if:

I confirm that, for the tax year 2008/09, I have not claimed to be, or been treated as not resident, not ordinarily resident or non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.

Personally, I’d be quite happy for MPs or the Committee on Standards in Public Life to have made a decision saying candidates should have to make such a declaration. But in the absence of such a decision – and in the absence too of cross-party agreement in advance of the document’s publication, this smacks far too much of a last moment unilateral political wheeze.

Whether it all matters depends on the level of publicity the document gets and whether there is therefore real pressure on candidates to make their declarations. So far, aside from my coverage over on the Election Law Channel (the only site regularly covering election law matters in the UK) the document has pretty much passed without notice. That may yet change of course and it could only take one local controversy to trigger the media’s attention.

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About the author
Mark works at Blue Rubicon and lectures at City University. He also edits Liberal Democrat Newswire - the monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats. He is co-author, 101 Ways To Win An Election and blogs here.
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Reader comments


“I confirm that, for the tax year 2008/09, I have not claimed to be, or been treated as not resident, not ordinarily resident or non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.”

Why on earth?

We’re in 2009/10 tax year right now and will be in 2010/11 in a couple of weeks.

What does make it much more amusing is that this bars anyone (well, if saying yes, I have been so treated would be a bar) who has been working abroad from standing. Charity workers, expat engineers, anyone working for World Bank, IMF, posted abroad by their company, anyone working for the EU bureaucracy….actually, given the tax changes at the last euro-election this probably bars MEPs from standing.

i have a feeling that they’ve not really worked out the implications of the question they’re asking there.

Tim: it wouldn’t bar you from standing; rather (if you follow the MoJ’s code) you have to state in public that your tax affairs don’t meet the statement.

Well, as the statement is asked it wouldn’t stop me anyway. I was working in London that year. Press Office for UKIP.

It would stop (or impede anyway) the most impressive new candidate of all, Rory Stewart, from standing, as he’s been resident aborad for almost all of the last decade.

Every person who sits in the HoC and HoL should have their full UK earnings and tax paid transparently available for perusal to anyone who wants to look at them online. If you do not like the transparency do not sit in the legislature. In fact, there is no valid reason why all personal tax records should not be available to the public. Personal tax records have been available to the public in Norway since 1863 (skatteliste). Sweden are equally as transparent. Does that cause capital flight? Does not look like it, since Norway is one of the wealthiest societies on earth. Bizarrely one of the few organisations who object to the transparency is the Norwegian Taxpayer’s Association.

“I confirm that, for the tax year 2008/09, I have not claimed to be, or been treated as not resident, not ordinarily resident or non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.”

Rules out anyone who’s been posted abroad by the civil service, worked for NATO, various EU bodies, MEPs, OAPs in Spain, brickies working in Dubai.

Intersting isn’t it how, despite remininding us every 10 minutes that we live in a “globalised” world, and should have porous borders, when it comes to tax the left want use to be a robust nation state with defined national boundaries


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Should candidates have to publish their tax status? http://bit.ly/dbmxHB

  2. Mark Pack

    RT @libcon: Should candidates have to publish their tax status? http://bit.ly/dbmxHB < Guest post from me

  3. Should candidates have to publish their tax status? | Mark Pack

    […] Media & PR Should candidates have to publish their tax status? Date: 27 March 2010 1 comments Tags: committee on standards in public life, Election law, ministry of justice, non-doms Cross-posted from Liberal Conspiracy: […]





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