More than half of the £400bn of commercial property across Britain is believed to be held by investors and companies in tax havens overseas. The Times

The practice of 'managing tax' by holding shops, factories and offices in vehicles registered in Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands is widespread.

More than 70% of the property owned by investment groups and funds is thought to be held offshore.

The details came as it emerged that Tesco had transferred the ownership of more than 80 of its supermarkets in the UK to joint ventures domiciled in the Cayman Islands.

The supermarket admitted that the move had helped it to become 'more tax efficient' but vehemently denied suggestions that it had avoided paying tax on £500m of profit from the deals.