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July 31, 2013

Tax evasion and land ownership

While the latest EU Council resolution aimed at ‘tax fraud, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning’ should be of serious concern to the accountants at Google, Amazon and Starbucks, a new report commissioned for the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster will make equally uncomfortable reading for many of Scotland’s landowners and large farmers.   In particular, chapter two shines the light on how Scotland’s larger landowners use their holdings not only to minimise their tax liabilities but simultaneously draw down vast sums of public subsidy.


Tax evasion and land ownership
The Committee Chair is calling for an end to “tax avoidance and subsidy milking” by landowners in Scotland.
The Commons Scottish Affairs Committee has launched an open consultation on a programme of comprehensive land reform in Scotland. The Committee has commissioned a briefing paper from four notable land experts and is inviting responses from all sectors of society in Scotland and the UK more widely.
The paper describes how almost half of all land in Scotland is owned by 432 landowners, who under current law receive large public subsidies but are liable for low levels of taxation on land.
The paper follows an exchange in the House of Commons between Scottish Affairs Committee Ian Davidson MP and the Prime Minister:
Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the statement from the European Council and the Government, which says that proper information on ‘who really controls every company’ will be provided. Will the Government cooperate with the Scottish Affairs Committee in establishing who owns and controls the great landed estates in Scotland, in order that they can minimise both tax avoidance and subsidy milking?
The Prime Minister: That is the intention of this move. Having all countries sign up to an action plan for putting together registers of beneficial ownership by companies and the rest of it will help tax authorities make sure that people are paying tax appropriately. That is a debate that we are leading at the G8 and in the European Union.
The Committee is inviting written responses to the paper and will subsequently hold formal evidence sessions.