Extra tax collectors for UK super-rich

2011-09-18 22:05

London - Let the audits begin.

As the UK tightens its belt during economic uncertainty, a senior government official said on Sunday he was hiring more than 2 000 extra tax inspectors to make sure that Britain's wealthiest feel the squeeze.

The British Treasury's Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander, told the Sunday Independent newspaper that his priority was "making sure that those with broadest shoulders bear their fair share of the burden".

Alexander said a 100-member "affluence team" would be in place in less than a month to keep an eye on the country's wealthiest taxpayers - the estimated 350 000 people whose personal wealth exceeds £2.5m.

The British government's crackdown on tax evasion has already netted more than £2bn a year, Alexander said, predicting that figure could rise to £7bn a year by 2015.

Britain is going through politically painful series cutbacks aimed at restoring order to its finances after the Labour government, in power for 13 years, saddled the country with billions in debt.

The public sector has been slashed and unemployment has risen - as has anger at the government over austerity measures such as tuition hikes that have tripled the cost of higher education at many British universities.

Alexander's Liberal Democrats party - the junior partner in Britain's coalition government - has a strong left-leaning constituency and many are unhappy over the party's partnership with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives. 

Ratings plummeted

Approval ratings for the Liberal Democrats have plummeted, and its leaders are under pressure to air their differences with Cameron as they hold their annual party conference this weekend in Birmingham.

So with Tory lawmakers talking about cutting taxes for some of the country's wealthiest, the Liberal Democrats are quickly burnishing their socially conscious credentials.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, another Liberal Democrat, took to Britain's Sky News television to threaten a crackdown on oversize executive pay packages, saying that share prices and basic salaries had stayed flat even as compensation for top business leaders had ballooned.

"Something is not right here," he told the broadcaster. "There are rewards for failure and that is what we have to deal with."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who also serves as Cameron's deputy prime minister, bashed Tory plans to lower taxes on the highest-paid Britons.

"[It's not] morally or even economically right to unilaterally lower the tax burden on the very, very wealthiest when we have not made as much progress as we wanted to on lowering tax on millions of people on ordinary incomes," he told BBC television.

- AP
Read more on:    david cameron  |  nick clegg  |  uk  |  economy
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