As part of my commitment to more open democracy and increased representation, I hold regular E-consultation sessions with contituents.
The way it works is simple – from time to time I will send an e-mail to those who are willing to take part, asking their views on a particular issue. Topics will range from the local to the national, and those who want more detail on the issue in question will be referred to websites where there is balanced information on each side of the argument. Constituents are then invited to vote on the issue, usually with a simple yes/no answer. Those who wish to are also invited to give reasons for their decision. There is no obligation to answer any particular question and you can opt out at any time.
I will send out about one email a month – and of course you can ask to stop receiving such messages at any time and I welcome feedback on frequency and content.
I hope you will be interested in taking part in this experiment in using technology to make democracy more effective.
To join our e-consultation list send an email to Karen Hurst with ‘E-Consultation Sign-up’ in the subject line email@example.com
Tax avoidance – your thoughts!
Firstly, thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to my most recent e-consultation – I know that it was a particularly busy time for everyone!
I was keen to know whether, in light of increased coverage of the issue, residents would be withholding their custom from companies who have been reported as pursuing aggressive tax avoidance strategies over the festive season.
How you voted
323 of you voted, and the results were as follows:
67% of you planned to boycott companies who did not pay full tax
33% did not plan to.
It was apparent, in both the yes and the no votes, that most people felt extremely strongly that the use of tax avoidance schemes was morally wrong. However, what else I picked up was that, even amongst those who felt most strongly about it, many of these companies are so ingrained into our everyday lives that it is difficult to not use them. Although there are plenty of rival coffee chains – not to mention some excellent independent coffee stores – people felt that Google and Amazon are difficult to avoid.
One respondent noted that, “Although I would like to say YES, I will continue to use Amazon as their prices are low”, and a number of other people explained that no bookshops they had been to have the range of books that Amazon do – particularly the case for those with specialist interests.
Government action on tax avoidance
Of course, a number of you – quite rightly – pointed out that the Government should be addressing this problem, and I do very much agree. It is simply not fair that at a time when most firms are making a contribution to balancing the nation’s books, that a small minority of companies are escaping their responsibility.
The Coalition Government is investing more than £1 billion to help HMRC tackle tax avoidance and evasion, which will bring in £9 billion more a year than Labour managed in Government. The 2012 Autumn Statement announced a new £150 million investment in HMRC which will help speed up work to detect and challenge transfer pricing arrangements, similar to those used by Starbucks.
The Lib Dems have championed a General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR) and, as a result, the Coalition Government will introduce one in 2013 which will block artificial and abusive arrangements contrived to avoid corporation tax. It was announced in the recent Budget that tax disclosure deals made with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man had brought in £1 billion.
Many of you, in your replies, noted a cynicism at the frequently used argument that companies would simply ‘do their business elsewhere’ if the Government cracked down on this. To resolve this, tackling international tax avoidance requires international cooperation. The Government are leading negotiations and offering funding to help the G20 and the OECD deal with the problems associated with transfer pricing. We will make it a top priority when we chair the G8 in 2013.
Following this e-consultation, I will to write to George Osborne to highlight to him how strongly my constituents feel on this matter – we cannot grow complacent on it.