Sunday 20 August 2017

I profited from offshore fund, admits David Cameron

Steven Swinford in London

David Cameron has admitted that he had a stake in his father's offshore company, which he sold for £30,000 (€37,000) shortly before he became Britain's prime minister.

Mr Cameron sought to end days of questioning about his family's tax affairs by insisting that he paid income tax on the dividends in the "normal way".

He insisted that he does not have "anything to hide" and said he is proud of his father's achievements, adding that he "can't bear to see his name being dragged through the mud".

It comes after he has faced four days of intense scrutiny over his family's financial arrangements. He had previously insisted that he does not receive any current benefit from an investment in an offshore trust and will not do so in future.

However, he has now revealed that both he and his wife benefited from the trust in the past.

He told ITV News: "Because, of course, I did own stocks and shares in the past - quite naturally because my father was a stockbroker. I sold them all in 2010, because if I was going to become prime minister, I didn't want anyone to say you have other agendas, vested interests. Samantha and I had a joint account.

David Cameron joins students at the launch of the 'Brighter Future In' campaign bus at Exeter University
David Cameron joins students at the launch of the 'Brighter Future In' campaign bus at Exeter University

"We owned 5,000 units in Blairmore Investment Trust, which we sold in January 2010. That was worth something like £30,000. I paid income tax on the dividends. There was a profit on it but it was less than the capital gains tax allowance so I didn't pay capital gains tax.

"But it was subject to all the UK taxes in all the normal way. So I want to be as clear as I can about the past, present and future.

"Because frankly I don't have anything to hide. I am proud of my dad and what he did, the business he established and all the rest of it. I can't bear to see his name being dragged through the mud. For my own, I chose to take a different path from my father, grandfather and great grandfather, who were all stockbrokers, and I have nothing to hide in my arrangements."

He also said that he had received a £300,000 (€370,000) inheritance from his father when he died, adding that he could not be sure if it came from an offshore source.

He said he is committed to publishing his tax return: "I think the idea of publishing the information that goes in your tax return, I am very relaxed about that. It didn't happen before the last election. It did not come about.

"I don't think this should be for every MP. It is a very big change in our system. It should be for the prime minister, and the potential prime minister. I am very happy for that to happen."

Downing Street had initially said it was a private matter before first clarifying that the PM had no offshore funds and trusts, and then making clear the family would not benefit in future either.

Mr Cameron defended his government's record on tax, insisting Britain has been an "absolute leader" in cracking down on avoidance.

Details of a move by the premier to water down the effect of EU transparency rules on trusts despite warnings it could create a loophole for tax dodgers have also left him facing fresh criticism. But Mr Cameron told students during a visit to Exeter that he had put tax avoidance at the top of the agenda during his chairmanship of the G8 group of leading nations.

"Britain has been an absolute leader on this and we will continue to do it," he added.

'The Financial Times' revealed that Mr Cameron successfully argued in 2013 for trusts to be treated differently to companies in anti-money laundering rules.

In a letter to then European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, Mr Cameron said it was "clearly important we recognise the important differences between companies and trusts".

He wrote: "This means that the solution for addressing the potential misuse of companies, such as central public registries, may well not be appropriate generally."

Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, who led the European Parliament's work on the draft law, told the 'FT' that the UK used privacy arguments to justify a different status and that she had seen it "as a danger and as a possible loophole".

But a UK government spokesman said the stance was taken because of concerns that seeking to apply true "beneficial" owner registers to trusts "would distract from action against those areas of most concern, such as shell companies".

"In practice, these further changes weren't achievable. In the subsequent negotiations, we were able to secure a sensible way forward which ensures that trusts which generate tax consequences have to report their ownership to HMRC."

Shadow Treasury Minister Richard Burgon said the story "completely undermines" claims the Government was determined to act on the issue.

Irish Independent

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