UK's Cameron releases tax records to calm Panama Papers storm

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David Cameron Releases Tax Returns in Bid for Transparency After Panama Papers Leaks

By Estelle Shirbon and Paul Sandle

LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron took the unusual step on Sunday of publishing his tax records to try to end days of questions about his personal wealth raised by the mention of his late father's offshore fund in the Panama Papers.

Cameron's initial reluctance to admit that he had benefited from the fund caused a furore, compounding his problems when he faces a huge political fight to persuade Britons to vote to stay in the European Union in a June 23 referendum.

The EU issue has split his Conservative Party, while the government has also been going through a tough patch over a senior minister's resignation, a u-turn on welfare cuts and accusations it is failing to protect Britain's steel industry.

After saying on Saturday that he could have handled the fallout from the Panama disclosures better, Cameron released a summary of his tax records for the past six years.

But any hope that this would draw a line under the row was short-lived, as the main Sunday newspapers zeroed in on a gift of 200,000 pounds ($282,500) Cameron received from his mother in 2011, suggesting it may be a way of avoiding inheritance tax.

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UK's Cameron releases tax records to calm Panama Papers storm
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron returns to 10 Downing Street in London after attending a VE Day service at the Cenotaph, Friday, May 8, 2015. Cameron's Conservative Party swept to power Friday in Britain's Parliamentary elections winning an unexpected majority. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha smile from the steps of 10 Downing Street in London Friday, May 8, 2015, after meeting with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in a traditional formality, where he informed her that he has enough support to form a government. Cameron's Conservative Party swept to power Friday in Britain's Parliamentary General Elections, winning an unexpected majority. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 08: (L-R) Labour leader Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron attend a tribute at the Cenotaph to begin three days of national commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day May 8, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. Both Miliband and Clegg said they will resign their posts as party leaders after they were soundly beaten by Cameron and his Conservative Party in yesterday's general election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron and his wife Samantha are applauded by staff upon entering 10 Downing Street in London on May 8, 2015, after visiting Queen Elizabeth II, a day after the British general election. British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party on Friday won a majority in the House of Commons in the general election, results showed. AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEFAN ROUSSEAU (Photo credit should read STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, at at U.N. headquarters. Members of the Security Council were expected to adopt a resolution that would require all countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of would-be foreign fighters preparing to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
United Kingdom's Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
British Prime Minister David Cameron attends a meeting of the United Nations Security Council regarding the threat of foreign terrorist fighters during the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
British Prime Minister David Cameron meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Timothy A. Clary, Pool)
President Barack Obama speaks at the UN Security Council summit on foreign terrorist, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, at UN headquarters. Front row, from left are, British Prime Minister David Cameron, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the president. Behind are Secretary of State John Kerry and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
British Prime Minister David Cameron greets President Paul Kagame of Rwanda before a meeting of the United Nations Security Council regarding the threat of foreign terrorist fighters during the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a high-level meeting at the Ford Foundation on post-2015 anti-poverty goals, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during the United Nation Climate Summit at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves after giving a statement to the media about Scotland's referendum results, outside his official residence at 10 Downing Street in central London, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Scottish voters have rejected independence, deciding to remain part of the United Kingdom after a historic referendum that shook the country to its core. The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Unityed Nations during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly September 24, 2014 in New York City. World leaders, activists and protesters have converged on New York City for the annual UN event that brings together the nations for a week of meetings and conferences. This year's General Assembly has highlighted the problem of global warming and how countries need to strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images)
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A source at Cameron's Downing Street office said the suggestion was inaccurate, the gift had been declared and this was about a mother making a gift to her son in the same legal way that hundreds of thousands of Britons do every year.

Cameron will make a statement about tax policy to parliament on Monday, but is likely to face a barrage of questions about his personal finances from opposition lawmakers.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused him of misleading the public by issuing what Corbyn described as four "weasel-worded" statements in as many days before finally admitting that he had benefited from his father's fund.

Some politicians who are campaigning for Britain to vote to stay in the EU in June's referendum are concerned that the damage to Cameron is bad for their side, as he has previously been considered the best advocate for an "In" vote.

"The scandals over David Cameron's finances ... may tip the decision further towards 'Leave'," said former Scottish National Party leader Gordon Wilson in a statement on Sunday.

"MORALLY WRONG"

Cameron is not accused of having done anything illegal, and the fact that he is a wealthy man is nothing new.

But the past week has been damaging because the drip-drip of carefully worded statements before the fuller disclosure created the impression he may have had something to hide.

"He's not behaved improperly in any way and he's gone further than any prime minister previously in publishing these tax returns," Conservative minister Dominic Raab told Sky News television, accusing Cameron's Labour critics of "unsavory" personal attacks and comparing them to "hyenas."

Bookmakers William Hill said they had cut their odds on Cameron resigning as prime minister this year to 2/1 compared with 16/1 when he won the last general election last May.

Cameron said on Thursday his father's investment trust was not set up to avoid tax but to invest in dollar-denominated shares. He said he had paid all taxes due on his own investment, which was worth about 30,000 pounds when he sold it in 2010.

However, Cameron stands accused of hypocrisy after portraying his government as being in the forefront of global efforts to crack down on offshore tax havens. A comment he made in 2012 about a famous comedian's legal tax avoidance scheme being "morally wrong" has been widely quoted by media.

Scores of politicians and business figures have been implicated in the Panama Papers, including the prime minister of Iceland who has since stepped down. The 11.5 million documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca detail the creation of more than 200,000 companies in offshore tax havens.

The documents disclosed by Downing Street on Sunday, from RNS Chartered Accountants, show Cameron paid tax of 75,898 pounds on income of 200,307 pounds in the 2014-2015 financial year, the most recent one included.

Seeking to regain the initiative, Cameron announced a new taskforce, jointly led by Britain's tax authority and National Crime Agency, to tackle money laundering and tax evasion.

But Labour's finance policy chief, John McDonnell, said this was inadequate and called for a full public inquiry. ($1 = 0.7080 pounds) (Additional reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary in Edinburgh; Editing by Keith Weir)

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