The European Commission has just published its proposals for rules for tax advisers and related intermediaries which will require advance disclosure to national tax authorities and cross-border automatic information exchange of any tax scheme that might be deemed potentially aggressive.
The dirty world of tax evasion and avoidance involves all sorts of unpleasant and anti-social characters, none more so than the professional enablers who devise avoidance schemes, market these schemes to their clients, lobby governments for special treatments and permissive laws, and generally play the role for tax dodgers that Tom Hagen played for The Godfather.
This week is the global week of action for tax justice and on Wednesday 5th April activists from the Tax Justice Network and Methodists for Tax Justice held a protest outside the London offices of Price Waterhouse Coopers.
The global week of action for tax justice is happening one year after the release of the Panama Papers. The Panama Papers were the latest in a series of large leaks from the offshore world that have revealed the true extent to which lawyers, bankers and accountants have facilitated the hiding of vast amounts of money in offshore financial centres by individuals and companies. One year on, these facilitators of financial impropriety have suffered few consequences and continue to operate with impunity.
There’s a new book out that looks very interesting reading from Professor Jason Sharman with the rather catchy title: The Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management: On the International Campaign against Grand Corruption. It has been reviewed here in The Economist. We haven’t read it yet, but this study of kleptocracy looks worth reading, and the amounts of money stolen are staggering. The estimates on Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak are as high as $70bn.
It is a fact that the trust laws of some tax havens openly promote illegality. The reality that some tax havens will not enforce foreign laws (e.g. ensuring non-recognition of foreign laws and judgements that favoured legitimate heirs and former spouses) is even publicly advertised by some offshore service providers, not on the deep web like drugs and illegal weapons, but on the internet, accessed by a simple google search on tax or estate planning.
Despite this, there has been some reluctance from governments to take on the issue of trusts, and some difficulties posed for governments that have attempted to deal with some of their more problematic features. Today, a new paper called Trusts – Weapons of Mass Injustice from the Tax Justice Network attempts to reopen the debate on trusts, and argues that there is urgent need for effective measures to curtail their activities.