Interactive map: More than 100 commercial properties are owned by foreign-registered companies in the region
Loopholes that allow offshore companies to buy up large swathes of North Devon and Torridge should be stamped out according to the local Labour leader.
Latest information from the Land Registry shows 61 commercial properties in North Devon and 41 in Torridge are owned by companies registered in offshore tax havens.
They are not doing anything illegal but it means foreign-based companies don’t have to pay tax on profits from sales of commercial real estate - while British-registered companies do.
North Devon Labour Party chairman Mark Cann said he sided with Labour’s national policy on the issue.
He said: “Labour is absolutely committed to stamping out these loopholes.
“Whether these properties are here in North Devon or elsewhere, the key issue is that we need a fair and transparent tax regime where these loopholes are closed and in doing so, the money is raised to provide the extra resources for essential public services, like the NHS, which have been starved by the austerity policies of the last seven years.”
Examples of offshore ownership include the unit owned by Damien Hirst’s company at Mullacott, owned by Hirst Holdings Limited, which is registered in Jersey.
Green Lanes Shopping Centre is owned by Barnstaple Trustee No1 Limited, also Jersey registered.
Green Parks Holiday Village at Westward Ho! is owned by Aram Alehsan Holding, which is registered in Saudi Arabia.
‘Foreign’ businesses also own various properties on local industrial estates such as Seven Brethren in Barnstaple and Clovelly Road in Bideford.
Mr Cann continued: “Closing the tax loophole around non-UK companies and commercial property sales would have direct benefits for us here, as it would level the playing field for British businesses and it would also generate substantial revenue.
“Approximately one-third of all UK commercial real estate – including most high value property – is held through offshore companies. Typically, these companies are in tax havens, or structured so they pay no tax on the capital gain.
“In 2015, the then chancellor George Osborne introduced capital gains tax on residential property sales by non-doms – but crucially not commercial properties. This has created the world’s most obvious loophole where overseas individuals and companies can repurpose property as commercial to avoid it.”