Estimating tax avoidance: New findings, new questions
There are now a range of estimates of the global scale of tax avoidance. These include:
- the $600 billion annual tax loss estimated by IMF researchers Crivelli et al. (2015; 2016), which divides roughly into $400 billion of OECD losses and $200 billion elsewhere;
- the $100 billion annual tax losses that UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2015 estimated for developing countries due only to conduit FDI investment through ‘tax havens’;
- the $100 billion to $240 billion globally that OECD researchers estimate;
- the $130 billion globally that we have estimated as annual losses due to avoidance by US multinationals only; and so on.
The OECD’s new terms of reference to assess the implementation by countries of BEPS Action 13 related to Country-by-Country Reports (CbCR) may penalise countries, especially developing ones, that try to obtain by their own means the CbCR’s valuable data needed to tackle multinational tax avoidance.
Country-by-Country Reports (CbCR) (to be prepared by multinationals with group revenues over EUR 750 million) will offer information on multinational economic activity, profits and tax paid broken down for each country where they operate. This CbCR “map” will reveal any misalignments between the location of real activity, and where profits are ultimately declared to hold both multinationals and tax havens to account.
How much tax do multinational companies pay in your country? Leading tax justice campaigners (including the Tax Justice Network) and open data specialists are working on helping you find out with their open data for tax justice project. Today they’re publishing a white paper entitled What Do They Pay? which sets out a roadmap for the creation of a global public database on the tax contributions and economic activities of multinational companies. More details about the project can be found at datafortaxjustice.net. Hashtag for following developments on social media is as you see it on the right #od4tj
Here’s some good news. Policy advisor on tax justice and economic inequality at Oxfam Novib, Francis Weyzig writes how the government in the Netherlands has come out in support of public country by country reporting.
From the United Nations General Assembly, the fifth report of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. The summary goes like this:
“The report focuses on impacts of taxation on human rights and explores the challenges posed to the international order by widespread tax avoidance, tax evasion, tax fraud and profit shifting, facilitated by bank secrecy and a web of shell companies registered in tax havens. The Independent Expert calls for resolute action by the international community, including through the creation of a United Nations tax cooperation body, the adoption of a United Nations tax convention, the phasing out of tax havens, the revision of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to include the obligation of corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and the adoption of a financial transactions tax.”
As you can imagine with an introduction like this, here’s a lot of tax justice stuff in here, and TJN gets a number of mentions. It follows our earlier blog on calls by Rafael Correa, head of the G77 group of developing countries, for an international tax body. Among other things, the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order discusses the definition of ‘tax havens’ and refers to TJN’s alternative term ‘secrecy jurisdiction’ while providing further details on TJN’s Financial Secrecy Index (FSI) and the top listed jurisdictions on the FSI 2015 here (p9 and in the annex).
We’ll highlight only this section below for now, which is a recommendation for the following: