British PM Cameron not alone in publishing tax returns

British Prime Minister David Cameron. (AFP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron. (AFP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has published his tax returns and details on offshore dealings in response to a Panama Papers leak tied to his late father’s investment fund, is far from the only elected leader to disclose his assets.

Across Europe, elected officials in most countries are required to make public declarations of their finances. Here are some examples:

British members of parliament (MPs) must acknowledge if they have additional income, expenses, gifts, or rental income from housing of more than £10,000 (R21 000) per year and shareholdings worth more than £70,000 (R1.5-million). They do not have to say how much the additional income is however.

MPs are also encouraged to declare shareholdings even if they are below the threshold if “it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a member”.

In Cameron’s case, a gift from his mother was not something he was obliged to report either as MP, since it is from a family member without a parliamentary lobbying interest, or in his tax declaration. 

Since September 2013, after former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac was found to hold an undeclared bank account in Switzerland, 8,000 French ministers, deputies and local officials must declare assets and “interests”, which are then verified by an independent body. 

In the biggest European economy, elected officials must reveal their earnings, both official, and from outside sources if they exceed 1,000 euros/month or 10,000 euros/year, but officials are not required to detail their personal assets.

The revenues of lawmakers and ministers are examined by parliament.
There is greater scrutiny now, both because of the heavily-indebted country’s creditors, notably the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and following the emergence of various documents alluding to tax avoidance.

Icelandic lawmakers and ministers have been bound to declare assets, revenues and other financial elements that could influence their work since 2011.

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was forced to step down as Iceland’s premier last week amid massive public protests over a hidden offshore account, revealed in the Panama Papers leak, in which he had held a 50 percent stake.

As in most other EU countries, elected officials and ministers must publicly declare their assets and revenue sources.  

Italian politicians are allowed to pursue professional activities during their terms as lawmakers, meanwhile. Lawyers for former premier Silvio Berlusconi were singled out by opposition deputies because they were also members of the parliament’s justice commission.

Berlusconi faced a raft of legal woes, but most of his trials ended in acquittal or lapsed. His only definitive conviction to date is for corporate tax fraud for which he served a community service order. – AFP

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