Deferred tax: a con to hide subsidies to shareholders at taxpayers expense

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The following Early Day Motion has been tabled in the House of Commons. It is clearly based on the work I did for the RMT last year, although I had no hand in its drafting:

EDM 1089


McDonnell, John

That this House notes the report by the Tax Justice Network for the RMT union that the privatised rail industry is profiteering from £1.3 billion in unpaid tax and is using a deferred-tax loophole intended to encourage investment to instead fund increases in dividend payouts to shareholders; is appalled that whilst private rail companies are profiting from this tax loophole passengers are being asked to pay higher rail fares and endure delays and overcrowding on many rail services; therefore urges the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use the forthcoming Budget to announce that this tax loophole will be closed; and believes that this further example of shameless profiteering at passengers' expense once again demonstrates the need for a publicly owned and publicly accountable railway.

I know that there's a technical misunderstanding of deferred tax in this motion.

And yet I also am quite sure that there is not.

You see, requiring full provisioning of deferred tax when no tax is ever likely to be paid is a serious misrepresentation of the true and fair view that a set of accounts should present. It does result in the tax charge on the face of a set of accounts being wrongly stated, consistently. I think that is a deliberate wish of those who introduced this requirement. The IASB is no friend of fair tax reporting or it would have introduced country-by-country reporting.

It also hides the fact that the real financing for an operation is in fact being given by state subsidy, as is the case with these companies (where it is being used to provide shareholder returns as the proportion of funding from shareholders is reduced as deferred tax rises) by misnaming that subsidy as a liability rather than a cash injection.

So I know the profession will scoff at this motion. But actually, those who wrote it possessed the eyes of the child in The King's New Clothes - they have seen through the fiction and have told the truth.