Ahead of the G20 Summit in Hamburg this week our own George Turner has published this op-ed in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung today. The article discusses why, despite sustained political engagement from world leaders, we are still some way from solving the problem of tax avoidance and tax evasion. Here’s an English translation of the article:
We’re delighted to bring you a guest blog by Lukas Hakelberg, a researcher from the University of Bamberg – one of our partners in the EC-funded COFFERS project. The blog outlines the motivation and key findings of a study by Lukas and a colleague, Max Schaub.
We’ve been raising the alarm about the global impact of ‘Tax Haven USA’ as the world’s biggest financial centre, increasingly an outlier, resisting broader trends towards tax transparency. The study by Hakelberg and Schaub uses the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index in addressing the question of whether this behaviour has effectively redistributed financial activity in favour of the US, and at the expense of other secrecy jurisdictions.
Tax competition and corporate tax avoidance ‘inconsistent with human rights – UN treaty body Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
Andean region: towards a new fiscal reform agenda for equality and rights Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
See video here, and the report in Spanish here.
Illicit Financial Flows hampering West Africa’s attainment of SDG’s Ghana News Agency
GLOBAL TAX JUSTICE AT A CROSSROADS
SOUTHERN LEADERSHIP AND THE
CHALLENGES OF TRUMP AND BREXIT
City, University of London, 5-6 July 2017
The Association for Accountancy & Business Affairs (AABA), City, University of London (CityPERC), and the Tax Justice Network (TJN), are delighted to confirm the programme for next week’s annual conference – the latest in an annual event series dating back to 2003. The events bring together researchers, academics, journalists, policy staff of civil society organisations, consultants and professionals, elected politicians and their researchers, government and international organisation officials. The purpose is to facilitate research, open-minded debate and discussion, and to generate ideas and proposals to inform and shape political initiatives and mobilisation.
Registration (last few places)
There is a small charge for attendance and refreshments during the two days. For more information contact: email@example.com
The OECD has today published a list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions” on tax ahead of the leaders G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, and hailed the “great progress” being made on international efforts to tackle tax evasion. The list only contains one country, Trinidad and Tobago.
The Tax Justice Network condemns the empty ‘tax haven’ blacklist. Far from the success which is being trumpeted, this meaningless gesture instead threatens the genuine progress that the OECD has in fact been making.
The report hails ‘massive progress towards the exchange of information on request standard’, despite the fact that this standard has been superseded by the superior alternative of automatic information exchange. Automatic exchange has been a key part of the Tax Justice Network’s policy platform since our establishment in 2003, and although long dismissed as utopian, is now the basis for OECD’s Common Reporting Standard which will come into action this year.
The key finding of the report is that: “As a result of the significant progress made since April 2016, only one jurisdiction (Trinidad and Tobago) still meets the current criteria to be considered not to have made sufficient progress towards satisfactory implementation of the agreed tax transparency standards.”
The global standard, which is preferred by the OECD is now cooperation through automatic, multilateral exchange of tax information between tax authorities. Many jurisdictions taking part in this system have failed to commit to information sharing outside a small group of rich economies, so there are grave challenges to ensure lower-income countries benefit.
But most worryingly, the biggest financial centre in the world – and the biggest OECD member – has flatly refused to participate in automatic exchange. The USA demands automatic provision of information from all others, and provides only a few countries with anything in exchange under the skewed, bilateral arrangements agreed in support of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The OECD report does note, in the FAQ, the USA’s rejection of the CRS – but erroneously claims that ” the US is automatically exchanging certain information under its many bilateral agreements implementing FATCA and that each of those agreements also includes a commitment to full reciprocity (which would deliver information similar to that exchanged under the CRS).”
Alex Cobham, chief executive of TJN, said:
Over the last few years, the OECD has indeed made great progress in some areas of tax transparency – but today’s announcement is not a part of that, it actively undermines it. Since the financial crisis, the OECD and its members have finally embraced the Tax Justice Network’s longstanding position that only multilateral, automatic exchange of information can support an effective antidote to financial secrecy, and all of the tax abuse, corruption and other crime that goes with it. It’s disheartening then to see the OECD fall back into the old pattern of creating ‘tax haven’ blacklists on the basis of criteria that are so weak as to be near enough meaningless, and then declaring success when the list is empty.
It’s a simple matter to look at the multilateral arrangements for automatic exchange of information that will kick in from this year, and to assess each jurisdiction in terms of the share of the world with which they intend to provide information. This reveals immediately that many of the usual suspects such as Switzerland, including many OECD members, are simply not going to extend transparency further than they absolutely have to. Inevitably, lower-income countries are systematically being excluded. And the elephant in the room? The OECD’s biggest member, the United States, has positioned itself to demand information from everyone else, while refusing to reciprocate. If you were going to produce a tax haven blacklist with only one member, it wouldn’t be a small Caribbean island – it would be tax haven USA.
Notes to editors
- A detailed critique of the OECD blacklist approach can be found here: http://www.taxjustice.net/2016/07/20/oecd-another-go-hopeless-politicised-tax-haven-blacklisting/.
- For more detail on the emergence of tax haven USA, see: http://www.taxjustice.net/2015/01/26/loophole-usa-vortex-shaped-hole-global-financial-transparency-2/. This piece also includes links to all subsequent updates, to June 2017.
Life’s full of surprises, some pleasant, some not so much. Imagine you had undeclared offshore assets when the global financial crisis struck, and you’ve nervously watched the world move towards TJN ‘s proposal for multilateral, automatic information exchange. Until now you’ve probably felt ok, and that you had a choice between two moves. Either you could say ‘Ok, the game’s up – I’ll use an amnesty or some kind of disclosure facility, and go straight’; or you could decide to keep hidden, using the new loopholes that are being actively promoted in Switzerland and elsewhere.
You probably weren’t worrying too much about the past though. Information exchange will relate to existing holdings, so you just need to get things lined up before it kicks in (from September 2017 or after). But as India’s Economic Times reports,
“The worst fear of those with secret offshore bank accounts and private trusts is coming true — some tax havens are ready to part with ‘old’ records and even details of trusts and foundations that no longer exist.”
World Public Services Day – campaign highlights Global Alliance for Tax Justice
Want to fund better public services? End corporate tax dodging PSI / The Guardian
Expiry date in tax havens? Jersey shares ‘old’ records of trusts & foundations The Economic Times
‘The worst fear of those with secret offshore bank accounts and private trusts is coming true…’
Why MEPs should vote in favour of releasing public country-by-country reporting as open data Open Knowledge International Blog
Transparency in Corporate Ownership Key to Breaking India’s Financial Secrecy Financial Transparency Coalition
LuxLeaks: Luxembourg’s response to an international tax scandal Financial Times
‘Damaging attacks on sweetheart deals have forced policy changes’
US senators renew effort to outlaw shell companies Financial Times
‘US lawmakers are launching a fresh effort to outlaw “shell companies” amid fears that Russia is exploiting such opaque corporate vehicles to spread its influence.’
Strengthened EU rules to tackle money laundering, tax avoidance and terrorism financing enter into force European Commission – Press release
Tax havens really do mess up our economy Tax Research UK