The Weekend Debate: Should election candidates have to declare their tax records?

by Stephen Tall on April 7, 2012

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

The race to be London mayor took a fresh twist this week when the leading candidates pledged on BBC Newsnight to release their tax records. Lib Dem mayoral candidate Brian Paddick declared himself very happy to publish full details, which appear here on his website:

Brian Paddick has nothing to hide and is very happy to be open and transparent about his income and tax returns as a registered sole trader. His figures show he has never attempted to use any complex arrangements to dodge paying anything less than full tax on his earnings.

Not that the release of records is putting an end to the controversy, with Boris Johnson’s 7-figure earnings attacked by The Guardian and Ken Livingstone’s crafty tax avoidance scheme attacked by those closer to home at Labour Uncut.

Without doubt a precedent has been set — it’s hard to imagine a future campaign for mayoral office in London or beyond not to include a demand for the candidates to ‘publish or be damned’. And if not mayors, why not also potential prime ministers or those standing for their party leadership?

In the pro-publishing camp is the Daily Telegraph:

… in an age when there is so much suspicion of the political class, it should be a basic requirement that those whose decisions reach into every wallet in the land – who claim, as the Chancellor has, to find tax avoidance “morally repugnant” – can show that they are subject to the same rules as the voters. We urge all three party leaders to follow Mr Livingstone’s grudging lead, and embrace the transparency that they have so frequently advocated.

In the anti-publishing camp is Matthew Barrett at ConservativeHome:

I am very keen for more working class MPs to enter Parliament, and have a greater voice at the top of the Party, but scaring the well-off out of politics, a very possible side-effect, does not seem fair or reasonable. There is no suggestion that those who are successful in business are intrinsically less able to formulate policies to benefit everyone in society, but making candidates disclose their tax returns will soon cause a witch-hunt for wealthy candidates every general election. We should discourage it.

What do LibDemVoice readers think…?

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.