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Rich tax avoiders striking dissonant chord warns BASW

Public outrage towards shamed tax avoiders like Take That star Gary Barlow is “hardly surprising” when the most vulnerable are being financially squeezed, BASW’s Chief Executive Bridget Robb said.

Ms Robb spoke out after it was revealed Barlow and two of his bandmates could be forced to pay back millions after putting money into a scheme set up for tax avoidance.

Two years ago comedian Jimmy Carr was revealed as one of thousands of wealthy Britons benefiting from an aggressive tax avoidance scheme.

Internet giant Amazon and high street coffee chains Starbucks and Caffe Nero have also been accused of corporate tax avoidance.

Figures from the Tax Justice Network suggest as much as £25 billion is lost to the Exchequer annually through tax avoidance; a further £70 billion through tax evasion and £26 billion goes uncollected.

Meanwhile, the Department for Work and Pensions spends £159 billion a year on benefits, half of which (£74 billion) is on state pensions.

Ms Robb said: "Inequality of wealth is fast becoming one of the defining issues of our age. It is hardly surprising to see rising public resentment towards rich and famous tax avoiders at a time when the most vulnerable in society are paying the price for the mistakes of bankers and governments.

"Politicians might make themselves more popular if they placed equal focus on ensuring high-earners paid their dues to the public purse."

Ms Robb highlighted the French economist Thomas Piketty, who’s book-of-the-moment Capital is causing huge debate.

Capturing widespread anxiety over wealth inequality, Piketty claims the super rich are benefiting from capital in a way that is far outstripping labour income. Piketty recommends an 80% tax rate on the rich to keep check on the widening inequality gap.

Mr Robb added: “In Capital, Piketty says ‘the history of the distribution of wealth has always been deeply political’. Equality only comes by political action and Piketty’s answer of a wealth tax is something that should be taken seriously.”