Evading Tax and Avoiding Tax Evasion: for decades British governments have shied away from tackling cross border crime
In the 1920s, an embryonic tax collecting organisation was steadily growing in the US. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was an agency ignored by the majority of Americans. However, the tide turned in 1931 when the IRS secured the conviction of Chicago gangster Al Capone for tax evasion.
On 17 May 2017, the members of the Finance Committee of the Bundestag cast their votes for ultimate amendments to Germany’s anti-money laundering law. The governing conservatives CDU/CSU and Social Democrats SPD rejected amendments supported by the left and Green party that would have remedied three fundamental flaws in the law which prevent the public from accessing beneficial ownership information on German legal entities. These flaws consist of
- the failure to make the registry of beneficial owners public
- the registry’s restricted scope which is likely in breach of the 4th EU Anti-money laundering directive
- a watered down the definition of beneficial ownership.
The law will be voted on in its current form by the Plenary of the Bundestag in the evening of the 18th May, with no opportunity to change the text further. The only way to stop and/or amend the law would be through the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper chamber. However, after recent elections, this outcome appears to be less likely.
Despite severe critiques presented at the law’s public hearing in the finance committee on 24 April, none of the fundamental weaknesses identified by TJN, German Netzwerk Steuergerechtigkeit and Transparency International have been addressed by the amendments voted for by the governing coalition (TJN’s written statement can be read and downloaded here).
On the contrary, the law has been further watered down in at least two (relatively minor) aspects (one change involves exempting trusts, Treuhandstiftungen and limited partnerships from the obligation to document the steps taken for identifying a Beneficial Owner; another is extending a restricted obligation to report suspicious transactions which was applicable in the previous version of the law only to lawyers and auditors to all professions covered by professional confidentiality, e.g. tax advisers).
The three main problems persist which prevent the public from accessing beneficial ownership information of German legal entities. Two concern the watering down of the definition of the beneficial owner, the first of which relates to the senior manager opt-out clause, which the 4th EU AMLD is allowing, but which the UK did not implement and the EU-parliament in March 2017 actually rejected in its comment on the interim proposal for amending the 4th AMLD (and which we have analysed in depth here).
The second problem relates to the obligation to identify the beneficial owner for the purposes of the registry. The obligation to identify and report the beneficial owner of the company is limited to situations in which the German company or its shareholders are directly controlled by a beneficial owner. The graph below (or in the written statement on page 4) illustrates the problem.
Welcome to this month’s latest podcast and radio programme in Spanish with Marcelo Justo and Marta Nuñez, downloaded and broadcast on radio networks across Latin America and Spain. ¡Bienvenidos y bienvenidas a nuestro podcast y programa radiofónica! (abajo en castellano).
In this month’s programme:
- A new government in Ecuador: will President Lenin Moreno continue Rafael Correa’s policies against tax havens?
- We analyse how to tackle banks, accountants and lawyers, the brains behind the offshore system
- How the world’s most powerful country, the United States also suffers from the effects of tax havenry, it’s not only a developing country problem
- And the arrest and release of Jurgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca – yes, heads of the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal
“The financial crisis of 2008 has led to a re-evaluation of the role of financial institutions and their relationship with the wider economy and society. There is an increased questioning of both the conduct of business itself and the principles behind commercial and financial activities. Yet non-western voices have been notably absent from this debate, as have alternatives to the dominant western-derived economic ideologies.”
This is part of the description of a new book by Senior Lecturer in Accounting & Finance at the University of Suffolk, Atul K. Shah PhD (also author of ‘Celebrating Diversity’). His latest book is co-written with Dr Aidan Rankin and is called Jainism and Ethical Finance: A Timeless Business Model.
Civil society and allies are pushing for real (and useful) transparency when it comes to disclosing the beneficial owners (BOs) of companies, meaning the individuals who ultimately own and control the companies that operate in our economies, and that could be involved in illegal activities (e.g. tax evasion, corruption, money laundering, etc.).
After many scandals, including the Panama Papers, the international community is moving in that direction, with the G20, the OECD, the Global Forum, the EU and many countries starting to regulate and require beneficial ownership registration.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election. We’d like to share with you the thoughts of Dr Mary Alice Young (Bristol Law School, University of the West of England) and Dr Michael Woodiwiss (Arts and Cultural Industries, University of the West of England) on the implications for the UK’s secrecy jurisdictions or satellite havens and for corruption opportunities globally:
From TJN’s Department of ‘You Couldn’t Make This Up’: the East African press is reporting that Uganda’s former Energy Minister, Syda Bhumba, has confirmed that she signed a tax waiver agreement with UK company, Tullow Oil, without reading the document. The waiver, which exempted both income and capital gains from tax, is being disputed by the Uganda Revenue Authority on the grounds that she had no authority to sign such a waiver since authority in this area lies with the Finance Minister.
While recent elections in France, U.K. and the U.S.A. have shown the results of globalisation gone bad, Sweden has successfully adapted its development model to make globalisation work for the majority of its people.