10 questions David Cameron failed to answer

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo / AP
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo / AP

1  Why, if he had nothing to hide, did it take David Cameron four days to admit he owned shares in an offshore investment fund?

In recent years the British Prime Minister has championed a crackdown on tax avoidance, which made it politically embarrassing for him to admit he once had money invested in a tax haven. But in hindsight he must wish he had been more open about his shareholding in Blairmore - his late father's offshore investment fund - from the start. Downing Street's handling of the crisis gave the impression of a Prime Minister caught on the back foot and unwilling to give a straight answer. He issued four statements in 48 hours before finally being forced to make his TV confession.

2  Was Blairmore a vehicle for tax avoidance?

Mr Cameron said it was a 'fundamental misconception' that the Blairmore trust was set up to avoid tax. But its own 2006 prospectus for investors - published while the Prime Minister was still a shareholder - made clear the trust had no intention of paying tax in Britain.It said: 'The directors intend that the affairs of the fund should be managed and conducted so that it does not become resident in the United Kingdom for UK taxation purposes.'The fund will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits.'Blairmore was registered in Panama and based in the Bahamas, where locals were retained to fill roles such as treasurer and secretary.

Board meetings were held in Switzerland and Nassau in the Bahamas.Financial expert Richard Murphy, a professor of international political economy at City University, said it was 'completely disingenuous' to suggest Blairmore was not set up to avoid tax.He said: 'There was a tax avoidance motive and it delivered tax avoidance.'
3 Why did Mr Cameron invest offshore in the first place, if not to limit his tax bill?

Mr Cameron said it was 'quite natural' for him to have owned stocks and shares, particularly as his father Ian was a stockbroker.But investors choose offshore funds specifically because they are sheltered from the higher tax burdens they would incur in Britain.While Mr Cameron would have been liable for income tax on and dividends received and capital gains tax on any profits when he sold, the funds themselves are not liable to any tax, so grow more quickly than those based onshore.Mr Cameron also said the fund was set up so people could invest in 'dollar-denominated shares', but it could easily have done that from Britain rather than the Bahamas.
4 If Blairmore was not trying to avoid tax then why did it use secretive 'bearer shares', which have since been banned from the UK?

Bearer shares, which Blairmore is known to have issued, do not carry the name of the owner and are similar to bank notes in that they are instantly transferable without paperwork.That anonymity meant they were popular with tax evaders and money launderers, although there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing linked to Blairmore or the Cameron family.The use of bearer shares was common in offshore funds at that time but they have since been banned from use in Britain - by Mr Cameron's government.
5  What was Mr Cameron's total return from these investments, including profits he drew out between 1997 and 2010 - when he sold his shares?

The 5,000 shares Mr Cameron owned in a joint account with his wife Samantha were bought for £12,497 in April 1997 and sold for £31,500 in 2010.The profit of £19,003 was below the capital gains tax threshold. Mr Cameron said he paid income tax on annual dividends from the fund, but it is not known how much he received. He has not revealed what profits, if any, he drew between 1997 and 2010, so the total value of his Blairmore investment remains unknown.
6  Why didn't he declare his Blairmore shares in the register of MPs' interests?

The register is intended to provide information about 'any financial interest which a member has, or any benefit which he or she receives, which others might reasonably consider to influence his or her actions or words as a member of Parliament'.Before 2010 it only required politicians to declare shareholdings valued at more than £65,000.But critics suggested Mr Cameron should have declared his Blairmore holdings while he was leader of the Opposition, when his personal interests and agendas were already under increased scrutiny.Mr Cameron became an MP in 2001 and leader of the Conservatives in 2005.He sold his Blairmore shares in 2010, the year he became Prime Minister, because he did not want to be open to accusations of serving his own 'vested interests', he said.In the month before he became Prime Minister, his register of interests included a gift of silver goblets from Lord Harris of Peckham, a rug from a former prime minister of Pakistan and a Christmas hamper from the Sultan of Brunei, but not his shareholdings.
7  Did he have any other offshore investments during or before his time as an MP?

Mr Cameron said he had owned 'stocks and shares in the past' but did not say if he had held any other offshore investments.When he became an MP in 2001 he declared that he owned shares in Carlton Communications, where he had worked as a consultant on 'Press and investor issues'.He and his wife were said to have sold their Blairmore units as part of a wider disposal of assets, before he became Prime Minister. But Mr Cameron has yet to give any details of any other assets.
8  Was the money left to him by his father partly or wholly the product of investments in tax havens?

Mr Cameron was left a £300,000 cash bequest in his father's will in 2010 - just under the inheritance tax threshold.Ian Cameron is known to have earned a salary of 20,000 US dollars as a director of Blairmore. He also had shares in Blairmore Asset Management in Geneva and a fund in the tax haven of Jersey which he helped to manage.The Prime Minister conceded he could not account for 'every source of every bit' of his £300,000 inheritance, adding: 'Dad isn't around to ask the question now.'But it's impossible to imagine that his affluent lifestyle and cash inheritance were not funded - at least in part - by his father's involvement with offshore investments.
9  What has happened to the money his father had invested in Jersey?

Ian Cameron owned 6,000 shares in an offshore fund he helped to manage in Jersey, the  Close International Equity  Growth Fund.Under Jersey law the full value of his assets in the tax haven were not revealed in a 'grant of probate' issued after his death, but the document is usually only required for sums above £10,000.Ian Cameron's widow Mary is thought to have inherited his Jersey assets, but Downing Street has refused to say if they were brought onshore of if she is still the beneficiary of an offshore trust.David Cameron said he would not benefit in the future from any family trusts, or from offshore funds. But if he inherits anything from his mother, it could then be argued he has benefited from the Jersey assets.Chartered accountant and tax lecturer Robert Leach said: 'We obviously need more details.'
10  Why has he still not published his tax return, four years after he first promised to do so?

Mr Cameron says he's 'relaxed' about publishing information from his tax returns but we still haven't seen them.He made a similar statement in 2012, when opponents demanded he reveal whether he and senior colleagues would benefit personally from the reduction in the 50p top rate of income tax.Four years on and there has been no such publication. Downing Street claims it will publish some returns but only as far back as 2009-10. This would not reveal Mr Cameron's total profit from Blairmore or other offshore funds before that time.

- Daily Mail

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