Our friends at Global Financial Integrity have released their latest report on what they estimate to be the latest figures from 150 countries on illicit financial flows to and from developing countries for the period 2005-2014. Most of these flows arise from fraudulent trade mis-invoicing which, as they point out, adversely affects the lives of real people:
“The massive flows of illicit capital shown in this study represent diversions of resources from their most efficient social uses in developing economies and are likely to adversely impact domestic resource mobilization and hamper sustainable economic growth.”
Interestingly, in addition to the estimated outflows GFI has looked at, this report also estimates illicit inflows to developing countries:
“Illicit inflows frequently occur when imports are under-invoiced for the purpose of evading customs duties and VAT taxes. The magnitude of estimated illicit inflows in the latest year (2014) ranges from $1.4 to $2.5 trillion. This large range reflects the fact that more precise calculations are difficult to make using available data.”
By Alex Cobham
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.
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.
In the context of a fun Twitter fight and finger-pointing between the Swiss Bankers’ Association and the German Finance Ministry, there’s a newish story on Quartz entitled Swiss bankers swear they are trying to help Africa get its dirty money back. It begins like this:
“It irritates Valentin Zellweger that ‘no longer than six minutes into any James Bond movie, a sleazy Swiss banker still appears.’ “
This is, of course, the story that Switzerland, which is still ranked top of our last Financial Secrecy Index, has not only made *some* improvements to its egregious and globe-harming secrecy regime, but it is engaged in a furious domestic and international public-relations exercise to try and distance itself from a deeply criminal past. Nobody should ever forget Swiss bankers’ efforts to use deception, fraud and other tricks to hang onto assets belonging to the families of Jews murdered by Hitler’s regime, before being dragged into making some amends by global outrage. And as if that weren’t bad enough, there’s oceans of other murderous and criminal stuff that we shouldn’t forget either.
Well, the Quartz article continues:
From The Guardian:
“More than $12tn has been siphoned out of Russia, China and other emerging economies into the secretive world of offshore finance, new research has revealed, as David Cameron prepares to host world leaders for an anti-corruption summit.
. . .
The analysis, carried out by Columbia University professor James S Henry for the Tax Justice Network, shows that by the end of 2014, $1.3tn of assets from Russia were sitting offshore.“
David Cay Johnston, writing in The Daily Beast in the U.S., adds: