Antony Jenkins has won deserved plaudits by disbanding Barclays' structured capital markets business (SCM) and vowing that the bank will not engage in transactions where the primary purpose is generate a tax saving.
His next task is to reveal how much Barclays has made over the years from playing the tax system, both on its own behalf and to advance clients' interests.
There are two reasons why such disclosure is required. The first is plodding: Barclays shareholders deserve to know how much profit will disappear as a result of Jenkins' ethical overhaul. The new chief executive has argued – properly – that a bank that hopes to survive for another 320 years can't afford to play fast and loose. But he hasn't spelled out the short-term cost of taking the long-term view. Tuesday's strategy update is the moment to put a figure on it.
The other reason is that outsiders – including government – also deserve to know the scale of past tax avoidance schemes, if only to know what HMRC is up against since not all financial institutions will be taking Barclays' vow of abstinence. Are we talking tens of millions of pounds of profit, or many hundreds, at the height? Members of the banking standards commission have alleged tax avoidance on an "industrial scale". If Barclays' new board disagrees, it should give numbers it regards as accurate.
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