We don’t do politics. But we do do tax: and it hurts us to see a travesty of the facts reported in the press. So this note is about the “Panama papers” in general and Mr Cameron’s involvement in his late father’s investment fund in particular.
First, on the general point, there are all sorts of reasons for using non-UK vehicles, and they are used by all sorts of people. Some are driven by tax motives; some by a desire for confidentiality; and some by entirely commercial considerations having nothing to do with either. In each case the motive may be entirely innocent and understandable: or it may be less so, shading into criminality. We’re not so naïve as to suppose that Mossack Fonseca don’t number some crooks among their clients. But let’s not tar all users of non-UK arrangements with the same brush – it’s not fair and it’s not sensible.
Second, let’s look specifically at Mr Cameron. The investment which has caused such apparent controversy was not, as you might imagine from the press, a concealed bank account opened to conceal dodgy assets from HMRC. On the contrary, it was an investment in an investment company called Blairmore Holdings Inc. Like many other investment funds it solicited investments on the basis of its prospectus. Its prospectus sets out the intention that it should, like very many offshore investment funds, distribute the great bulk of its income to investors whereupon any UK-resident investors become liable to UK taxes. It is simply, in other words, a form of investment vehicle no different from hundreds or thousands of others which have been known and recognised by HMRC for many years and to which a specific well-established taxation code applies. To represent it as anything else is either ill-informed or mischievous.