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Beware the siren song of “tax certainty”

Back in July the G20 club of powerful countries issued a communiqué in which they enthused about “the benefits of tax certainty to promote investment and trade,” and they mandated the OECD and the IMF “to continue working on the issues of pro-growth tax policies and tax certainty.”

It’s taken as a given that something called ‘tax certainty’ is a wholesome thing. Here’s the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) giving it the old motherhood-and-apple-pie:

“Certainty, along with simplicity and stability, is one of the cornerstones of a good tax system: but why is it important? How can policymakers encourage certainty?”

UN report recommends: go after tax havens, and protect whistleblowers

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:

Report: new data disproves US corporations’ false narrative on taxes

From Americans for Tax Fairness, a major new report about corporate taxes in the United States. It’s called Corporate Tax Chartbook: How Corporations Rig the Rules to Dodge the Taxes They Owe, and it contains many useful facts, such as this:

  • Corporate profits are way up, and corporate taxes are way down. In 1952, corporate profits were 5.5 percent of the economy, and corporate taxes were 5.9 percent. Today, corporate profits are 8.5 percent of the economy, and corporate taxes are just 1.9 percent of GDP.

Apple’s tax affairs: a symptom of the robber-baron culture

Updated with further information about Brazil’s decision – see below.

Now also on Angry Bear, Middle Class Political Economist

From the Financial Times:

corporate-america

More precisely, a group of 185 American CEOs has sent letters, co-ordinated by the Business Roundtable lobby group, to the leaders of 28 EU member states to try and get the European Commission to row back from claiming €13bn in underpaid taxes from Apple. They call the attempt a “grievous self-inflicted wound”.

Now Brazil puts Ireland on its tax haven blacklist

irelandWe have for years remarked that one of our informal markers of a tax haven is loud tax haven denials. See our ‘we are not a tax haven‘ blog for more. There’s probably no place more vocal than Ireland, where there seems to be a veritable industry of tax haven deniers, which specialises in cherry-picking convenient facts and making a pudding of them. (The other big Irish tax myth is that it was the 12.5 percent corporate tax rate that created Ireland’s Celtic Tiger: no, it wasn’t.)

Let’s state it clearly: Ireland is a big tax haven for multinational corporations, even if it isn’t particularly secretive.  Or, in more succinct form, for those who have difficulty reading small text:

Ireland is a tax haven.

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