In less than a year data will start to flow under a new scheme for countries to share information automatically across borders, to help each other collect taxes from their taxpayers and fight financial crimes and abuses. The scheme is the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) which was set up by the OECD, a club dominated by rich countries. The scheme will start to deliver global automatic exchange of information from 2017.
The automatic exchange of information between countries’ tax authorities has been trumpeted as a game changer for the fight against tax evasion. But the publication of the latest data shows that many countries, including some tax havens, are being very selective about who they are choosing to share information with. It seems many OECD countries prefer to play this kind of ‘dating’ game among themselves…
In July we wrote a blog entitled Luxembourg backing down on supporting tax haven USA. Now it’s Switzerland’s turn.
This concerns the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS,) a global scheme to share banking information. The United States isn’t a participating jurisdiction: it has its own FATCA project, which as we’ve remarked before, is good at ferreting out US taxpayers overseas, but provides relative little information in the other direction to help other countries enforce their own tax laws. Making the United States a giant tax and secrecy haven.
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:
Update: as it happens, The Economist has just published an excellent story about the Bahamas, subtitled The Bahamas Cocks a Snook at the War on Tax Dodgers. (Our only beef with that subtitle is that this is about so much more than just tax.)
We’ve periodically remarked on the Bahamas as a secrecy jurisdiction of great concern. Like Panama, it’s generally had a greater tolerance of dirty money than most modern offshore centres: more of a willingness to turn a blind eye and to overlook noncompliance by Bahamas-based actors of its own rules and laws.
The purpose of this blog is to flag up the Bahamas in a more pointed way: as a major wrecking-ball threatening global efforts to clamp down on cross-border financial secrecy.
The Bahamas has hosted an offshore centre for crime and tax evasion for decades, and it has historically had a higher tolerance for dirty money than most tax havens. Its secrecy score of 79 in our Financial Secrecy Index is one of the world’s highest. Treasure Islands summarises an important component of the Bahamas’ history and identity, via Chicago gangster Al Capone’s moneyman, Meyer Lansky: