Business & Finance
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NEWS: The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has received a friendly boost from Europe’s most powerful woman. During a visit to Germany, the new premier was told by Angela Merkel, “It is to our advantage to have the UK define its negotiating stance in great detail and clarity and to also clearly outline how it sees its future relationship with the EU – these have to be parallel processes.”
Formal talks would not start until Britain invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger the start of Brexit, the Chancellor said.
Mrs Merkel added: “It is now up to the British Government to define how it wishes to see its future relationship with the EU and to then also to pursue the following steps – particularly as regards the process leading up to invoking Article 50. Only then will the proper negotiations start.
“I promise you from the German side we will certainly stand up for our interests – just as Britain does for its own citizens. But we will do this in a spirit of friendship.
After a busy two weeks of quarterly corporate earnings data, this week has some key economic data points to watch out for.
China's Chimelong Group has participated as a partner in the Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival for the first time ever, deepening the friendship between China and Monaco.
More than 350 economic players came together for the first MEB Members Meeting of the year, during which a full calendar of events for 2020 was unveiled.
Company news will pick up pace this week, with fourth-quarter earnings being published for more than 800 companies. That said, key macro data and economic news will also remain on investors’ watch list.
UK-based accountants and advisers will face tough new rules if the Treasury presses ahead with a tightening of regulations. Professionals who help people bend the rules to gain a tax advantage that Parliament never intended face tougher fines under new penalties proposed by the UK Treasury. A fine of up to 100% of the tax that was avoided – including via offshore havens – has been suggested in the new rules, which have been published for consultation, the UK press reports.
Currently those who advise on tax face little risk, while their clients face penalties only if they lose in court. The rules would “root out” tax avoidance at source, the Treasury said. The rules in the consultation document also make it simpler to enforce penalties when avoidance schemes are defeated.
“These tough new sanctions will make would-be enablers think twice and in turn reduce the number of schemes on the market,” said the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison.
Until now HM Revenue and Customs has concentrated on tackling the individuals who don’t pay their tax, while advisers and promoters of tax avoiding schemes have remained shadowy figures in the background.
The intention is that will stop once there is a penalty for the professionals involved of up to 100% of the amount avoided in a scheme.
The government isn’t targeting legitimate ways of cutting tax bills, such as tax breaks for putting money in pensions or Individual Savings Accounts.
The avoidance it’s trying to root out involves bending the rules to gain a tax advantage that Parliament never intended, an alleged abuse which costs nearly £3 billion a year. Accountants see the move as a significant change, which could result in them paying fines even if the advice they give isn’t illegal.
Following the Panama Papers scandal, the five largest economies in the European Union, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, agreed to share information on secret owners of businesses and trusts. The Treasury said the move would make it harder for businesses and wealthy individuals to operate without paying correct taxes.
Speaking in July, new Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to crack down on tax avoidance, saying “tax is the price we pay for living in a civilised society”.
She said at the time, “It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Amazon, Google or Starbucks, you have a duty to put something back, you have a debt to fellow citizens and you have a responsibility to pay your taxes.”
However, earlier this month the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Responsible Tax accused the government of undermining efforts to end tax secrecy and said it should force multinational companies such as Google to publish information on their activities in every country where they operate.