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Andrea Leadsom [Image: The Independent].

Andrea Leadsom [Image: The Independent].

George Osborne’s latest attempt to make us think that Conservatives can be tough on tax avoiders has lasted less than a week.

The part-time Chancellor announced measures that meant avoiders faced bigger fines and were more likely to go to jail, on April 12.

What a shame his new city minister, Andrea Leadsom, is facing hard questions over actions she took to cut her own inheritance tax bill, just six days later.

Ms Leadsom is now responsible for the government’s Help to Buy property scheme, making this even more embarrassing as the allegations against her refer to shares in a property company.

The allegation is that she took advantage of offshare banking arrangements for her buy-to-let property company, placing her shares into controversial trusts in order to reduce her inheritance tax bill, for the benefit of her children.

The property firm Bandal, created by Ms Leadsom and her husband, another ex-banker – also created charges over two of its buy-to-let properties in favour of the offshore branch of an investment bank. Apparently this indicates that she obtained loans from the Jersey-based bank that were secured against the buy-to-let properties.

While none of the above is actually unlawful, it does mean there is at least one alleged tax avoider – not only in the Conservative Party but in the Treasury. The self-styled ‘Party of Financial Competence’ has become, once again, the Party of Financial Fiddles.

According to The Independent, “Since becoming an MP, Ms Leadsom has campaigned vigorously against bankers’ bonus caps and a financial transaction ‘Tobin’ tax.

“It is not the first time millionaire Tory ministers have been caught up in tax avoidance claims.

“The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell and Mr Osborne were all accused of legal tax avoidance in 2010 by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme. All three men denied any wrongdoing.”

This is a serious embarrassment for George Osborne, who told the nation, “If you’re hiding your money offshore, we are coming to get you,” in a speech last week.

In the case of Ms Leadsom, it seems, he doesn’t have far to go.

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