The decision by the London mayoral candidates to publish their tax returns – an act hitherto unheard of in British politics – has set an important precedent. The three party leaders and other senior politicians are now certain to face pressure to do the same at the time of the next election. Indeed, a leader in today’s Telegraph argues that “it should be a basic requirement that those whose decisions reach into every wallet in the land – who claim, as the Chancellor has, to find tax avoidance “morally repugnant” – can show that they are subject to the same rules as the voters. ” It concludes:
We urge all three party leaders to follow Mr Livingstone’s grudging lead, and embrace the transparency that they have so frequently advocated.
For Labour, there are obvious advantages to greater tax transparency, which would reveal just how much some cabinet ministers receive in outside income. Had it not been for Ken Livingstone’s tax avoidance [and his initial reluctance to publish his tax return], the focus yesterday would have been on the windfall Boris Johnson will reap from the abolition of the 50p tax rate [the answer is £16,164, a figure first published on The Staggers], a change he persistently lobbied for.
Cameron’s pledge to lead “the most open and transparent government in the world” means he will struggle to argue against the publication of tax returns. But it’s hard to see the UK ever going as far as Sweden, where everyone’s tax returns are made public.