David Cameron must “stop pussyfooting around” and take action on tax dodgers, Jeremy Corbyn will demand, in response to the Panama Papers leak which has seen the Prime Minister dragged into a row about his late father’s business affairs .
The Labour leader will claim the information shows the need to get tough on tax havens including Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
Mr Corbyn will insist there cannot be “one set of rules for the wealthy elite and another for the rest of us”, adding that “the richest must pay their way”.
His intervention comes after Downing Street insisted it was a “private matter” whether the Cameron family still had funds in offshore investments.
The row is embarrassing for the Prime Minister, who has sought to lead global action to improve transparency in an effort to tackle tax avoidance.
The leak of more than 11 million documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca has exposed a series of schemes used by wealthy individuals, including some with links to world leaders, to reduce their tax bills.
According to the Guardian, which has seen the documents, Mr Cameron’s father Ian ran an offshore fund that avoided ever having to pay tax in Britain by hiring a small army of Bahamas residents – including a part-time bishop – to sign its paperwork.
Ian Cameron, who died in 2010, was a director of Blairmore Holdings Inc, which until 2006 used unregistered “bearer shares” to protects its clients’ privacy.
His use of the firm to help shield investments from UK tax helped build up a significant legacy, part of which was inherited by the Prime Minister.
There is no suggestion that this avoidance arrangement or others exposed by the leak were anything but entirely legal or that Mr Cameron’s family did not pay the UK tax due on any repatriated assets.
Mr Corbyn will heap pressure on the Prime Minister by demanding action as he launches Labour’s local government campaign.
He will argue that the avoidance of tax by wealthy firms and individuals is starving public services of vital funding.
He will tell the event in Harlow: “The publication of the Panama Papers this week drives home what more and more people feel: that there is one rule for the rich, and another for everyone else.
“It is time to get tough on tax havens. Britain has a huge responsibility. Many of those tax havens are British Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies.
“As the leaked documents show, tax havens have become honey pots of international corruption, tax avoidance and evasion. They are sucking tax revenues out of our own country and many others fuelling inequality and short-changing our public services and our people.”
The Prime Minister has championed the transparency agenda at a series of international summits, and legislation forcing British companies to disclose who owns and benefits from their activities comes into force in June.
But despite several years of pressure, few UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories – said to make up a large part of the tax havens referred to in the papers – have taken concrete action to open up the books.
Mr Corbyn will demand tougher action from the Prime Minister.
He will say: “The Government needs to stop pussyfooting around on tax dodging. There cannot be one set of tax rules for the wealthy elite and another for the rest of us.
“This unfairness and abuse must stop. No more lip service. The richest must pay their way.”
He will also demand extra resources for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to enable the authorities to tackle tax dodgers.
HMRC insisted the Government had been “at the forefront” of international efforts to improve tax transparency.
All of the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories had made “significant progress” on the agenda, HMRC said.
Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general, said there is a need for transparency among public figures.
Asked if questions over investments are a private matter for the Prime Minister, Mr Grieve told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I understood he said he had no shares in offshore companies so that would appear to answer the question.”
Asked again if it is a private matter, Mr Grieve added: “I think with public figures ultimately we do have a need for transparency.
“It’s worth bearing in mind we have a register of interests at Parliament where we’re obliged to set out very clearly areas of our financial interest which go way beyond what ordinary members of the public have to do, and I’m entirely comfortable with that.”