Steerpike

Labour poster boy in tax avoidance hypocrisy

Labour poster boy in tax avoidance hypocrisy
@Keir_Starmer
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Peterborough has become something of a political lodestar for Keir Starmer's Labour. The Cambridgeshire city hosted the launch of the party's 'Jobs, Jobs, Jobs' campaign last July and provided one of the few bright spots on local election night this year, helping to elect the area's first Labour combined authority mayor in Nik Johnson. The Economist even interpreted the result as an indication of the Brexit realignment, with southern, affluent areas appearing to countenance voting Labour for the first time in a generation.

Given Peterborough's political prominence in recent months, Mr S was therefore surprised to discover that Shaz Nawaz, the leader of the Labour group on the council has been giving advice on his YouTube property channel about his 'favourite tax saving strategies' despite his leader's pledge to 'clamp down on tax avoidance.' Nawaz, a tax accountant who bills himself as 'the profits wizard', last week uploaded part two of his ‘Property Proficiency Workshop’ in which he explains how to ‘achieve true financial freedom' by primarily focusing on ways to beat the taxman.

He tells viewers: ‘In this video, I’m going to focus primarily on tax savings, simply because if you save a pound in tax you have to do no extra work whereas to make a pound extra in your business, you’ve got to first create something.' The councillor, first elected in 2017 under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, explains how 'I'm going to show you some of my favourite tax saving strategies so you can implement them and you can put more money into your bank account' and that ‘All too often I come across taxpayers who’ve ended up paying more tax than they should have done.'

Nawaz was pictured on Starmer's own Twitter account last July with the caption 'Labour will campaign across the UK to protect jobs, incomes and high streets' alongside the then shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds who has lamented how the 'thriving tax avoidance and evasion industry... sadly has been aided and abetted by recent governments' in an article headlined 'Tax avoidance is a stain on our global reputation and a drain on our public services.' The last election manifesto on which both stood pledged ‘the biggest ever crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion’ and that a Labour government would ‘reform the inefficient system of tax reliefs.’

Starmer of course promised to clamp down on tax avoidance during last year's leadership election and cited figures claiming the £1.8 billion lost through tax avoidance a year could have paid for the annual salaries of 55,500 nurses and health visitors. Nawaz himself has attacked the 'Conservative council tax rip off' and written in the Peterborough Telegraph about the impact of police cuts on local communities, writing: 'someone pays, somehow: it's a question of who picks up the bill' adding 'the wealthy can escape these problems... everyone else is stuck.'

Quite a way from his own business philosophy, which according to the video enabled him to save £112,000 on just one deal last year, ‘that added to about 33 per cent additional cash flow and profit into my deal.’ Kerching. Other advice includes considering Capital Allowances if you're buying commercial property as 'this is a big, big tax saving' and having an Inheritance Tax annual review as 'there’s a lot to be saved there... if you plan for that as you go along, you’ll minimize and reduce and hopefully eliminate your Inheritance Tax exposure.’

He adds: ‘We save people tens of thousands of pounds every single year on Stamp Duty Land Tax savings so we know how the rules work' and recommends mitigations for Stamp Duty Land Tax such as Multiple Dwellings Relief for those proletarians lucky enough to be buying ‘two or more properties from the same person at the same time’ and other strategies if you’re buying ‘six (!) or more properties from the same person.’ For the many now the few, eh comrades? 

In a statement, Nawaz told Steerpike: ‘Tax planning or other tax advisory services comprise a broad range of services, such as advising clients how to structure their affairs in a tax efficient manner or advising on the application of a new tax law or regulation. When advising a client, I have a duty to serve that client's interests within the relevant legal and regulatory framework.’

‘There is a big difference between outright tax avoidance and advising SMEs how to be more tax-efficient with the tax rules set by Parliament, ensuring that they not only survive through challenging times and provide for their families but also, grow and create jobs, contribute to the economy, and build much-needed new homes among many other things.’

He added: ‘I fully support reforms towards a fairer and more transparent tax system. I have openly supported this as a councillor and will continue to do so. I believe everyone should pay the right amount of tax in line with the tax laws stipulated by Parliament. The top 5 per cent of earners need to pay their fair share alongside large corporations some of which are known for avoiding tax through complex structures. That should be the priority of the government and I am pleased Keir Starmer made this one of his 10 pledges. He has my full support.’

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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