So near and yet so far…
Hopes were riding high yesterday that UK parliamentarians might seize the opportunity to take historic action to end decades of financial secrecy in the UK’s Overseas Territories. We blogged about this yesterday highlighting the fact that a lot of ongoing Parliamentary business was at risk of being shelved because of the sudden general election called by British Prime Minister Theresa May. There’s a phenomenon known as the wash-up period which “refers to the last few days of a Parliament before dissolution. Any unfinished business is lost at dissolution and the Government may need the co-operation of the Opposition in passing legislation that is still in progress.”
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.
On July 22nd, 2016 the French supreme constitutional court ruled on a case brought by a US American citizen resident in France who had created a trust, allegedly to distribute her inheritance. She was contesting moves by France to set up a public register of trusts connected to France in an attempt to tackle tax fraud and serious economic and financial crime. So, what does this mean for transparency and tax justice?
The Tax Justice Network has today released a new report: The case for registering trusts – and how to do it. Many people would have you believe that solving secrecy risks around trusts is impossibly complicated. Now we show it isn’t. Another objection often raised is that it’s not worth the cost. Well, we think it is. And not only that, but technology now makes it affordable. We release our report just as the EU Commission is discussing an amendment to the 4th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive regarding the registration of trusts and public disclosure.
Cross-posted from Fools’ Gold.
We have our own particular reasons for disliking Brexit – the recent decision by the UK to leave the European Union.
In a pre-Brexit analysis we quoted Adam Posen, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who articulated what is probably our biggest generic concern:
“If you’re anti-regulation fantasists to begin with, you start going down the path, ‘Oh we can become an even more offshore center. We can become the Cayman Islands writ large, or Panama writ large.’ And this frankly is the way I think this also spills over to the rest of the world, is that the UK decides, ‘Hey, regulatory arbitrage, letting AIG financial products run in London, actually destroyed the US financial system, but didn’t hurt us – made us a lot of money. Let us continue down this path. Let us be the ‘race to the bottom’ financial center. And I think this that’s where this going, because they’re not going to have any other option. It’s not good.”