‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ Or words to that effect. I’ve suddenly remembered that I have sinned too. In 1970 I taught at an American university for a couple of months, and of course received a salary, on which I paid both Federal and State taxes. When I got back to Britain my bank told me I was liable to pay UK tax on that too, which however I could avoid if I transferred that income into one of their Channel Island accounts, set up for this purpose. I agreed, and the money went ‘off-shore’ until the end of that financial year. I remember feeling uneasy at the time, but also thought it was unfair that I should be taxed twice on the same income. Since then a ‘double taxation’ treaty between the UK and USA has meant that I didn’t need to do this for the money I earned much later at Yale. But I suppose that does make me a bit of a hypocrite for railing against Cameron’s, and all the other rich boys’, ‘tax haven’ arrangements today.
The broader point I want to make, however, is that this was common practice at the time. It was my bank (Barclays) that suggested the Channel Island arrangement. Since then both they and the other banks I’ve used – in a largely frustrating search to find a really ‘ethical’ one – have frequently called me in to present me with options for maximising my gains on my (small) savings, some of which – especially the very complicated ones – have certainly involved overseas tax-avoidance wheezes. I’ve never gone in for any of these, and indeed steer clear of anything that involves buying shares on the Stock Exchange, even. My bank advisers genuinely, I think, don’t understand this. (One of them is called ‘McMoney’. I kid you not.) But for them the small fees they would earn on my meagre savings are hardly worth the time and effort of their trying to persuade me, so they let me go. It must be more difficult for richer and less principled people to avoid their lure, especially when, up to now, they haven’t seen anything particularly wrong in it. That’s why I’m morally certain that Dave still has something to hide. Why doesn’t he just admit it and say sorry? As someone who used to be a small-time sinner himself, I’d understand.
6 p.m. After five days of prevarication, he’s finally admitted it, in a weaselly kind of way. (http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/07/david-cameron-admits-he-profited-fathers-offshore-fund-panama-papers.) So perhaps we can now get back to the much more important principle involved (below, April 5).