The independent view on Osborne’s ‘Shares for Rights': a £1bn tax loophole

The near-unanimous rubbishing of George Osborne’s ‘shares for rights’ plan has escalated further with both the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Office for Budget Responsibility warning that it will ‘foster a new tax avoidance industry.

The Financial Times reports the IFS Director Paul Johnson attacking the Tory plan as putting ‘another billion pound lollipop on the table’ while condemning tax avoidance.

Meanwhile the Office for Budget Responsibility, set up by Osborne himself, agrees that the plans will eventually cost £1 billion a year – money which, experts agree, will mostly go to the financial services industry, or rather, bankers.

This presents Liberal Democrats, who have been queuing up to rubbish Osborne’s plans too, with a dilemma. Should they hasten the demise of this unloved piece of legislation? Or should they indulge in a spectator sport, as the Beecroft-lite plan is attacked from every angle until even Osborne himself admits it makes no sense?

In the longer game of Coalition engagement and disengagement, there is actually much to be said for the latter approach. The Bill of which shares for rights is part has a long way to go through Parliament, and while it would be sensible for Liberal Democrats to formally signal the party’s view of it, there is potentially more to be gained for leaving this dogma-driven plan hanging out to dry.

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