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There was something dishonest about the way news of the Panama papers was presented to us by the mainstream media.

The first thing we were treated to were insights into the financial arrangements of Valdimir Putin and some top officials of the Chinese Communist Party.

It was only later that we began the hear about David Cameron’s dad’s offshore dealings and the possibility that our Prime Minister may have been involved in tax avoidance in the past.

After that leaders of all the major political parties were forced to publish their tax returns.

So what is it about the words “tax” and “avoidance” that people don’t get? By definition, tax avoidance won’t show up on your tax returns, making the whole process an exercise in gesture politics of the most useless kind

But there was one glaring omission which the news was unable to bring to light. What about the corporations? Don’t they too keep their vast wealth in offshore accounts?

And the answer to this is: “yes, of course they do.”

What the Panama papers show are the activities of a single law firm dealing with the tax affairs of a number of wealthy individuals. Multinational companies don’t need to consult law firms as they have their own legal departments to work out the arrangements for themselves.

According to Oxfam, the fifty largest companies in the United States may have hidden as much as $1.3 trillion in offshore accounts.

This is only what they have avoided paying tax on in America. It doesn’t tell us what they have plundered from the other nations of the world, including our own.

“Poor countries are particularly hard hit, losing an estimated $100bn a year to corporate tax dodgers,” said Robbie Silverman, Senior Tax Advisor at Oxfam. “This is enough to provide safe water and sanitation to more than 2.2 billion people.”

So while us onshore citizens are being taxed at source, and watching as our public services are being wrecked beyond repair and the most vulnerable amongst us are targeted for cuts, the very richest are basking in their sunny tax havens, with almost unimaginable wealth at their disposal.

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The Whitstable Gazette.
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