Newsletter - Tax Justice FocusTax Justice Focus, Volume 8, Number 2 - The Finance Curse edition
Sept 23, 2013
The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus, edited by Daniel Hind, Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen, explores the Finance Curse, a phenomenon rather similar to the Resource Curse afflicting resource-rich economies. Evidence continues to mount suggesting that, far from being an asset, a large and globally 'competitive' financial sector, above a certain size, becomes a drain on the rest of the economy.
In our lead article, renowned geographer Doreen Massey explores the long history of ‘the City’ having a major (and often harmful) role in the UK, but says this time is different. Finance and financialisation is at the core of a new social settlement in which the fabric of its society and economy has been thoroughly reworked. OurKingdom will be publishing this stand-alone later this week.
Next, Adam Leaver of the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) then offers a corrective to the idea, commonly heard in UK policy-making and opinion-forming circles, that London is the engine of Britain’s prosperity. Finance, he explains, enables London and its hinterland to enjoys the “metropolitanisation of gains” from economic activity in the whole country - while the rest of Britain suffers “the nationalisation of losses” emanating from London’s financial centre. OurKingdom will be publishing this stand-alone later this week.
Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch then introduces us to the ways in which the financial and political elite in Britain merge and overlap, to the point where it no longer makes sense to talk about finance lobbying the government. The government is now a lobbyist for finance. OurKingdom will be publishing this stand-alone later this week.
In the final feature, Nicholas Shaxson looks at the Resource Curse and traces the similarities between mineral wealth and finance in greater detail. In one sector, people appropriate economic rents from valuable and potentially explosive substances that can leak out and pollute the surrounding environment. In the other, they dig mines and drill oil wells. Open Democracy is carrying a stand-alone version of
this here; or you can read a stand-alone pdf here.
These features are followed by an interview with Mike Dun from the British tax haven of Jersey, describing the large economic crowding-out that has occurred on his home island and explains how nationalist undercurrents in a small community can close down debate, entrenching political ‘capture’ by the financial sector.
Our book review in this edition looks at Richard Eccleston's 'The Dynamics of Global Economic Governance: The Financial Crisis, the OECD and the Politics of International Tax Cooperation' (Edward Elgar, 2012), which considers the key issue: "Does the international system have the capacity to devise and implement an effective governance response to the grave challenges facing the global economy?"
With a Letter from Cyprus contributed by David Officer in Nicosia, and a commentary from Markus Meinzer on the latest developments on automatic information exchange and FATCA, this is a bumper edition of Tax Justice Focus.
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 8, Number 1 - the MYTHBUSTERS edition.
May 14, 2013
The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus, edited by Daniel Hind, explores some of the most persistent and powerful myths in contemporary economics.
Earlier this year we teamed up with the New Economics Foundation in London to produce a series of essays - Mythbusters - which are currently being published weekly in the Guardian newspaper, and can be found here on the nef website. In this newsletter we explore how some of these myths survive and are propagated.
In the opening article Daniel Stedman Jones explores how the ideas of Adam Smith have been selectively interpreted by neo-liberals to shape a particular view of the free market which had little or nothing to do with Smith's own interpretation. (See his stand-alone article here .)
Aeron Davis considers why the media are so uncritical in their coverage of the activities of the City of London, promoting the myth that the City's role is too important to be challenged. (See his stand-alone article here.)
William Davies examines the reality behind the much-vaunted enterprise economy, so beloved of neo-liberals, and argues that much of what is termed entrepreneurial activity boils down to little more than rent-seeking. (See his stand-alone article here.)
And finally, Robin Ramsay asks why myths persist for so long in the political discourse. Does it boil down in the end to the awkward fact that most politicians are economically illiterate? (See his stand-alone article here .)
In addition, Krishen Mehta reviews Aaron Schneider's new book on State Building and Tax Regimes in Central America, and we have a round-up of the major tax justice news stories from recent weeks.
You can download Tax Justice Focus - the full Mythbuster edition here, and please feel free to circulate to your friends and colleagues.
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 7, Number 3 - the TRANSFER PRICING edition.
Nov 7, 2012.
The latest edition of TJN's quarterly newsletter, Tax Justice Focus, is available for download here.
Guest edited by TJN Senior Adviser, David Spencer, this edition has particular focus on transfer pricing, and includes articles summarising research by some of the participants at TJN's international conference on transfer pricing that was hosted by the Finnish government in Helsinki earlier this year. The entire range of papers and presentations from that conference are available for download here
In her article Brazilian tax attorney Tatiana Falcäo contrasts the Brazilian approach to transfer pricing, which is based on a mix of safe harbours and fixed margins, with the OECD approach based on the arm's length method.
Australian attorney Kerrie Sadiq explains why the high level of integration and complexity of multinational financial institutions (MFIs) like banks allows massive opportunities for profits-shifting and proposes unitary taxation and formulary apportionment as the appropriate response for overcoming the problems that arise from trying to tax MFIs.
In our third feature article, Indian tax attorney Vikram Vijayaraghavan explores the deficiencies of the Indian transfer pricing system and proposes the use of safe harbour arrangements, formulary apportionment, and a streamlining of current transfer pricing provisions.
In his article, David Spencer, summarises the reporting requirements for resource extraction companies required by the Dodd-Frank legislation in the USA, and compares these new requirements with the broader reporting requirements that would be required by a full Country-by-Country reporting provision.
TJN's Moran Harari and Markus Meinzer provide a progress report on preparations for the 2013 edition of the Financial Secrecy Index, scheduled for launch in November 2013.
In his book review, John Christensen finds the new edition of A Dictionary of Taxation (Simon James, published by Edward Elgar, 2012) a helpful addition to his desk.
Plus our usual summary of news items from recent months.
Download your free copy of Tax Justice Focus, volume 7, number 3 here.
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 7, Number 2 - the INEQUALITY edition.
July 26, 2012
Download the Inequality edition of Tax Justice Focus here.
This edition of Tax Justice Focus is devoted to inequality. Our guest editors are Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, whose book, The Spirit Level, has been acclaimed worldwide for its comprehensive analysis of how inequality is not just about differences in material comforts, but also has powerful effects that reduce the wellbeing of whole populations.
In our lead article, Nicholas Shaxson, John Christensen and Nick Mathiason explain why studies of economic inequality have systematically underestimated the wealth and income enjoyed by the world’s wealthiest people, because of the enormous and growing sums of 'hidden' wealth which are not factored into the calculations at the top of the income scale.
This is followed by Pickett's and Wilkinson's editorial, exploring how Inequality doesn’t just affect the poor: it damages the whole social fabric, harming the wellbeing of the vast majority.
In the next article, Danny Dorling examines how tax changes in recent decades have contributed to rising inequality in the United Kingdom.
David Erdal then explores how wealth distribution has nothing to do with markets: it is a result of the use of power. As he argues, tax isn’t the only way to reduce income inequality.The structure of the enterprise can be used to prevent executive pay and financial engineering from running out of control.
Then Thomas Pikkety, Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva find that contrary to a widely held view, new technologies or globalization, which have affected all OECD countries, cannot explain the fast-increasing income inequality found in countries such as Britain and the United States: The evolution of top tax rates is a good predictor of changes in pre-tax income concentration.
This issue also include Francis Weyzig’s review of Tax Treaties: Building Bridges between Law and Economics (Lang et al, IBFD) and a news in brief section summarising some of the top stories in recent months.
The Inequality edition is available for download here.
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 7, Number 1 – The OCCUPY edition.
23 April 2012
The Occupy edition - click here.
The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus explores how the Occupy Movement has changed public attitudes, not least to tax justice. In the Autumn of 2010 demonstrators from UKUncut started to protest against deals being struck between prominent multinational companies and the British government. Their campaign inspired US Uncut. The latter merged with other groups to create Occupy Wall Street, and suddenly the international political and media establishments began to take notice of tax justice in a way that would have been inconceivable eighteen months ago.
To reflect this seismic shift in the profile of tax justice we asked the Economics Working Group at Occupy at Saint Pauls in London to act as guest editor for this edition. Workingwith our new editor, Dan Hind, they have jointly commissioned the four feature articles published here.
In the lead article, Zoë Young and Jamie Kelsey offer insights into the techniques used in the many Occupy assemblies and working groups around the world.
Next, Carsten Jung explores how shadow bankers use tax havens to avoid regulation and raises the alarm that, four years after the financial crisis, shadow banking is now back to its pre-crisis peak at $60 trillion.
David Dewhurst subsequently explains why, after a career of committee meetings, staff meetings, academic boards and governing body events, he has found the diversity and democracy of the Occupy discussion process intellectually liberating and enjoyable.
And in the final feature article, Philip Goff examines the links between the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement and concludes that the new class struggle is between democratic communities and unrestrained global capitalism.
We also have book reviews on Wilson Prichard’s Taxation and State Building: Towards a Governance Focused Tax Reform Agenda, and John Creedy and Norman Gemmell’s Modelling Corporation Tax Revenue.
This edition also includes a news section and, on the final page, an advertisement for the International Tax Review’s Tax and Transparency Forum 2012, which takes place in London on 2nd May and is FREE to representatives from civil society.
The Occupy edition is available for download here.
Editor: Dan Hind
Guest editor: The Economics Working Group, the Occupy Movement at Saint Pauls
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 6, Number 2 – The SWITZERLAND edition.
October 5th, 2010
The Switzerland edition - click here
The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus explores the changing face of tax haven Switzerland. Historically one of the world’s most important secrecy jurisdictions, Switzerland – along with its financial services sector – have recently been buffetted by a series of scandals and pressures, from a giant tax evasion probe in the United States targetting the Swiss bank UBS, to massive damage to the banks from the latest financial crisis, and renewed anger about tax evasion and avoidance facilitated by Switzerland, from cash-strapped governments around the world - especially in Europe.
In this edition, guest editor Bruno Gurtner and his selected contributors explore the ways in which Switzerland has responded to the pressures, and find that while the country has taken some welcome steps towards transparency, there remains a very, very long way to go – and those limited positive changes that have taken place have generally seen developing countries left out of the picture.
In the lead article, Mark Herkenrath of Alliance Sud looks at Switzerland’s new double tax agreements, and finds that developing countries have avoided signing new ones with Switzerland because it is insisting that in order to get access to better forms of information exchange, developing countries must make concessions in other areas of international tax.
In his editorial, TJN's Bruno Gurtner then explores Switzerland’s history of circling the wagons in defence of its banking secrecy. As he explains, concessions have been made, but the Swiss have now retreated to new defensive positions, and it still remains extremely difficult for foreign jurisdictions to get information out of Switzerland.
This is followed by the historian Peter Hablützel, a former senior Finance Ministry official, who explores how Switzerland’s big financial institutions have effectively captured the Swiss state, with serious consequences for its democratic system. The financial crisis, he continues, has also undermined old certainties about the role of banking in Switzerland.
Next, Thomas Cottier, a leading Swiss expert in economic law, describes a serious tax dispute between Switzerland and the European Union, and advises that Switzerland ought to accept the EU Code of Conduct for business taxation as a basis for the future taxation of companies.
A few days before this edition was published the Swiss parliament adopted a new Law for the Restitution of Illegal Assets (LRAI), an innovative legal mechanism that places the burden of proof on the account holder. However, the law contains serious shortcomings. Olivier Longchamp of the Berne Declaration explores this law, in the wider context of Switzerland’s long historical relationship with the world’s kleptocrats and dictators.
This is followed by a feature article by Daniel Thelesklaf of Transparency International Switzerland, who explores Switzerland’s anti-money laundering act (AMLA.) As he explains, Switzerland, once a trailblazer in this area, is now following in midfield. He cautions against the tendency of many in Switzerland to bask in an outdated best-in-class myth.
Andreas Missbach of the Berne Declaration rounds off the features section of this edition of Tax Justice Focus, looking at the UBS case and other areas where Switzerland has had to retreat in the face of multiple external attacks and pressures on its banking secrecy. He explains how other countries are unlikely to accept some of the defensive positions Switzerland has now adopted.
This edition also contains a review of a new book entitled Tax Havens: How Globalization Really Works, plus a brief mention of TJN’s new transfer pricing project, an overview of the recent Yaoundé Declaration on Tax and Development, and a brief overview of a forthcoming meeting of the UN Tax Committee.
We would like to give our special thanks to Alliance Sud and the Berne Declaration for their generous support of this edition of Tax Justice Focus.
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 6, Number 1 – The NATURAL RENTS edition.
May 25th, 2010
The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus explores the issue of taxing natural rents. Economists define land, alongside labour and capital, as a factor of production. Unlike labour and capital, however, it is in fixed supply and has no cost of production. Being scarce, land is in great demand, but in many cases it is used inefficiently and its potential as a source of significant amounts of public revenue goes unrecognised. In this edition, guest editor Carol Wilcox and her selected contributors argue the case for adopting Land Value Tax as a just and efficient fiscal tool.
In the lead article Nic Tideman presents LVT as a tool for development. Poor countries have generally low land values so LVT is not commonly considered as a useful instrument for raising government revenues. Nic describes the mechanism whereby LVT can trigger a virtuous circle of increasing land values and revenues.
Henry Law discusses how LVT might be introduced. One of the main objections to LVT seems to be that it is impracticable, particularly that the valuation process is problematic. As can be seen below LVT has already been successfully implemented and land value assessment is becoming a simpler task with the development of improved software and other tools.
Molly Scott Cato then presents LVT as a green tax. Ever since value slipped its attachment to the natural world—around when fractional reserve banking was invented in the 17th century—money has become increasingly important, and the planet and its resources less so. To find solutions to the financial crisis and the environmental crisis, she argues, we must get our feet back on the ground.
Finally, Joshua Vincent describes the LVT experience in Pennsylvania and presents some interesting data. The split-rate taxes levied in Pennsylvania are probably the best documented applications of LVT in practice. In fact only a small portion of rent is collected in this way, which some say is insufficient to show the effects.
This edition also covers news of the recently issued Nairobi Declaration on Tax and Development, plus details of a forthcoming conference on the Political Economy of Taxation at Loughborough University, UK, in September 2010, a review of an IMF paper looking at the role of tax distortions and tax havens in the build-up of debt in financial systems around the world, and finally an invitation to support a documentary drama film.
You can download Tax Justice Focus volume 6, number 1, here.
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Tax Justice Focus, Volume 5, Number 2 – The JUSTICE edition.
From Paul Sagar, guest editor
Welcome to a special edition on the theme of tax justice and political philosophy. In a world ruled by ideas, the apparently disconnected enquiries of philosophers eventually shape world-views, orientate debates, influence elections and direct policies. But there is more value to philosophy than its long-run impact on practical politics. For it is through philosophy that we explore our beliefs and discover where our values lie. This, after all, is particularly important for the Tax Justice Network and everyone who demands tax fairness – two terms loaded with centuries of philosophical baggage.
Fittingly, this edition introduces a spectrum of very different philosophical approaches, from the left to the far right.
Martin O’Neill draws on the work of Thomas Nagel and Liam Murphy to show how modern liberal egalitarian insights can make a compelling case for tax justice. From this perspective, tax avoidance is anti-democratic and oversteps the legitimate freedoms offered in a democratic society.
John Pugh MP offers insights from a faith perspective, arguing that those who seek to live within this tradition should follow a sincere and continuous self-evaluation of their mortal journeys – and a greedy free-rider is not a figure Christian ethics support.
In the spirit of debate we also publish a contribution from the libertarian right. Daniel Mitchell and Hiwa Alaghebandian of the Cato Institute present what they call the moral and philosophical case for tax havens.
Drawing on the Marxian tradition, Martin McIvor shows that Marx’s legacy takes the form of a powerful analytic tool for the critical assessment of the tensions of capitalist societies. On this basis, he argues, abusive tax practices are a symptom of an unjust, unaccountable and fundamentally unbalanced economy.
Richard Murphy looks back at the Noughties and, suppressing his anger about the prevailing spirit of unjustness, concludes that this was a decade of progress, not least because of the success of the Tax Justice Network.
All this, plus book reviews from Sheila Killian and Thomas Rixen, should provide ample food for thought at the start of 2010.
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Tax Justice Focus - THE LATIN AMERICA EDITION
From Matti Kohonen, guest editor
September 6th, 2009
This is a special edition of Tax Justice Focus, with Latin America as its main theme.
Across Latin America the landscape of tax varies dramatically from country to country, as do the responses to the global financial and economic crisis. In the lead article Juan Pablo Jiménez and Juan Carlos Gómez Sabaini examine the difficulties in implementing tax reforms in a continent marked by high inequality, delegitimised political institutions at the mercy of powerful vested interests, and a legacy of regressive and weak tax systems.
In our editorial on page three, Matti Kohonen describes TJN’s first steps in building a new Latin American network, and points to how important it is to embed this work in a global context. This is complemented by Frederico Arenoso’s article on page 16, describing the challenges we face as we build up the TJN Latin American Secretariat. On the following page, Birger Nerre reports from the second EU-Latin American & Caribbean (EU-LAC) forum in Montevideo in May, which called for strengthening tax systems across the continent. It is followed on page
Latin American states also suffer from weakness of controls against capital flight. As Jorge Gaggero demonstrates on page 5, accumulated capital flight in Argentina gas markedly and consistently followed rising levels of external debt stocks.
On page 7, Nicholas Shaxson demolishes the seductive but superficial argument, which gains wide currency, contending that offshore secrecy can protect wealthy people in Latin America from the threat of kidnap.
In Brazil tax avoidance, tax competition and compliance costs can pose special problems for a federal country with a three-tier tax system. On page 9 Luis Flávio Neto outlines how these problems have triggered a “Guerra Fiscal,” or Tax War, with unhealthy consequences.
Guatemala and Nicaragua are also caught in a cycle of tax competition where, as Maynor Cabnera explains on page 11, tax incentives and tax exemptions on Maquila-factories should be considered in relation to “tax expenditure” calculations, to reflect the true losses of such provisions.
This is followed by Matti Kohonen’s feature article on page 13, describing the astonishing research by Washington-based Global Financial Integrity looking at the scale of cross-border illicit flows around the world.
Knowing where a company is based is a prerequisite for any information exchange to be meaningful. As Richard Murphy points out onpage 15, describing TJN’s ongoing “Where on Earth” project, even discovering where multinational corporations base their subsidiary operations is a painstaking task – and finding out what they are doing with those subsidiary operations is nearly impossible given the secrecy world in which they operate.
Resisting powerful lobbyists requires better representation, while drawing up new policies requires research and informed policy debate. Both issues are considered by Maaike Kokke, in her article page 18 describing the EU-funded “Towards Tax Justice” programme led by SOMO in the Netherlands.
The edition is rounded off with two book reviews by Markus Meinzer and Francis Weyzig on pages 19 and 20 respectively. Meinzer looks at Thomas Rixen’s important new book The Political Economy of International Tax Governance, while Weyzig examines Taxes and the Economy, a broad survey of international taxation by the Dutch authors Willem Vermeend, Rick van de Ploeg, and Jan Willem Timmer.
TJN International Secretariat
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Tax Justice Focus – THE NEXT STEPS EDITION
From the Editors
The Next Steps Edition – click here
This is a special edition of Tax Justice Focus looking at the tumultuous events of the last year, and looking forward to next steps in a fast-changing world and a deepening global economic crisis. It is edited by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen.
In the editorial on page four, What a Year, we look at the remarkable changes that have occurred in 2008, as our agenda has spread rapidly into new constituencies, as TJN focused especially on building up interest ahead of the Doha conference on Financing for Development, and alongside a growing global awakening around TJN's issues of concern in the context of the global economic crisis. We also look at some of our projects for the year ahead.
In our lead article, Tax and Development Jeffrey Owens, head of tax at the OECD, looks at why tax, long neglected in the development debates, matters so much. He explores the constraints developing countries face with respect to tax, and offers pointers to non-governmental and other actors who want to work in this area. New efforts are needed, he says, to develop an internationally accepted methodology for measuring aspects of the problem.
In our second feature article, The Plato Index on page six, Professor Edmund Valpy Fitzgerald and John Roche lament the lack of good data on tax for developing countries, and explain their revolutionary work (in partnership with TJN) in developing a new tax data base and a new index to measure and compare tax justice, across and between countries. We hope that this index will eventually be included as one of the United Nations Human Development indicators.
John Christensen follows this up with his long feature article on page eight, Doha: A cup half full? (which follows our special Doha edition last April. Examining the moderate progress recorded at the conference on financing for development at Doha, Qatar from November 29-December 2. He came away feeling that tax matters have moved from the periphery to the core of the development debate. We know we have played an important part in this.
Other key articles:
* In Tax Systems for Poverty Reduction on page 10, we look at TJN’s new three-year programme funded by the UK Department for International Development (Dfid) providing education and training materials for NGOs and others working in developing countries.
* The article S4TP – a project for South-South Co-operation on the same page describes a new project in partnership with UN agencies and New Rules for Global Finance coalition, to foster the sharing of best tax practices among developing countries.
This is followed, on page 11, by two film presentations, on The End of Poverty and La Grande Évasion, both of which feature TJN and have had quite an impact.
This edition ends with two expert book reviews. The first is a review by INDIRA RAJARAMAN of the book Institutional Competition by Andreas Bergh and Rolf Hoijer; the second review, by ALESSANDRO SANTORO, looks at David Weisbach’s Economics of Tax Law.
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Tax Justice Focus - THE RESEARCH EDITION
The second quarter 2008 edition of Tax Justice Focus is a special edition
drawing on papers presented at the AABA/TJN research workshop held in Essex,
UK, on July 3-4. It is edited by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen. (For
access to all the papers at the Essex
workshop, click here.)
In the editorial, Not On My Watch, Please, we focus on the key theme of this edition of Tax Justice Focus: the role that tax havens and tax and regulatory "competition" play in the current global financial crisis. We look at how tax havens have encouraged and allowed financial and other companies to roll back regulation, ushering in a period of dangerous indebtedness especially in the United States and Britain, the two countries at the forefront of financial "innovation" in recent years. Tax havens have also magnified two other major interrelated elements of the crisis: complexity in international finance, and secrecy.
In our lead article Shadow Regulation and the Shadow Banking System, JIM STEWART, Senior Lecturer in finance at Trinity College, Dublin, scrutinises the vast global "shadow banking" system that has emerged stealthily in recent years. He examines the specific case of how the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin enabled large institutions like the now-collapsed U.S. financial giant Bear Stearns to escape regulation and build up dangerously high levels of borrowing, where one dollar of equity financed $119 of gross assets. Stewart's original workshop presentation can be downloaded here.
Stewart's analysis is complemented by PHILIP SARRE'S article on page six, Global Financial Flows: the big picture, in which he examines the results of deregulation of global financial flows, which was supposed to promote efficient capital markets and make more capital available to developing countries. He finds the results disappointing: since 1971 annual net capital flows increased eightfold (while global GDP simply doubled) but open capital markets seem to have resulted in capital being concentrated in the wealthier countries, with only small and volatile flows going to poorer nations. He also identifies discrepancies in reported assets and liabilities adding up to six percent of global GDP. Sarre's original workshop paper can be downloaded here.
The following article on page nine, In Need Of a Fix: double tax avoidance rules as the institutional foundation of tax competition by THOMAS RIXEN at the Social Science Research Centre in Berlin, powerfully argues that under current rules in international taxation countries seek to preserve sovereignty and to resist allowing international tax agreements to impinge on their domestic national tax systems. The result, he concludes, is counter-productive, since these rules then set in motion powerful international dynamics of tax competition which result in significant reductions of sovereignty, and erosion of democratic choice in the countries affected. He proposes a bold solution. Rixen's original workshop paper can be downloaded here
The next article, Making The Link: tax, governance and civil society by OLIVIA McDONALD of Christian Aid, takes a different tack. Building on research and analysis by Alex Cobham, Mick Moore and Nardia Simpson in TJF vol. 3 Issue 2, into the links between taxation and political accountability and state-building in developing nations, she explores how Christian Aid is using its research strengths and wide networks on the ground in Africa and elsewhere to push this issue forwards. It will have major implications for Christian Aid's lobbying and campaigning efforts.
Other key articles:
* JOHN CHRISTENSEN on page 13 looks at a series of submissions made by the Tax Justice Network and various others to the UK Treasury Committee, which has launched an inquiry into the role of tax havens. This is a crucial matter, as Britain is at the heart of the global offshore infrastructure. TJN's submission to the Treasury Committee, Tax Havens: Creating Turmoil, was written primarily by TJN Senior Adviser Richard Murphy. It is available for download here.
* ATTIYA WARIS records a tax justice seminar in Amsterdam in May, organised by TJN-Netherlands to bring together tax practitioners, finance ministry officials, academics, journalists and non-governmental groups to look at the Netherlands' role in international taxation as it relates to developing countries.
* SOL PICCIOTTO reviews an important new book on international taxation, International Tax as International Law: an analysis of the international tax regime by Reuven Avi-Yonah, a leading academic expert on international taxation. The review looks at some of the ways multinational companies abuse international taxation, and Picciotto finds himself in agreement with Thomas Rixen (above) as to possible solutions.
* JOHN CHRISTENSEN follows this with the more light-hearted The Language of Offshore which nevertheless examines a serious point: how language has been hi-jacked by the boosters of tax havens to lend support for their damaging world-view. The article contains a handy table, the "TJN Dictionary of Offshore Obfuscation" which unpacks some of the things the supporters of offshore say, to reveal what they really mean.
* SILKE ÖTSCH then complements John Christensen's piece on the language of offshore with a look at the imagery of offshore, and announces a photo competition. The idea is to deconstruct common images of tax havens as sunny island paradises and paragons of freedom, and show them for what they really are.
The final item on page 18 is a calendar, which leads up to a key focus of TJN: the international summit meeting on finance for development to be held on November 29th to December 2 in Doha, Qatar.
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Tax Justice Focus, 1st Quarter 2008, Vol. 4, Number 1 – THE DOHA EDITION
From the Editors
April 7th, 2008
The Doha Edition - click here
The first quarter 2008 edition of Tax Justice Focus (TJF) is a special edition focusing on the preparations for the United Nations meeting on Finance for Development in Doha, Qatar, from November 29-December 2, 2008. It is edited by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen.
In the editorial, The Road to Doha, we look at six emerging trends which all favour the tax justice agenda, and argue that the next few years present the best opportunity in decades of rolling back the ideology in favour of tax havens, corruption, and abusive tax practices. Powerful vested interests will fiercely resist change, so it is urgent that civil society groups in rich and poor countries now start to get properly involved.
The U.N. Tax Committee has asked PROF. MICHAEL J. MCINTYRE to work up a draft U.N. Code of Conduct to set minimum standards for countries to co-operate on measures to combat capital flight, international tax evasion and abusive tax avoidance. In our lead article Coming Soon – a Code of Conduct on Tax Evasion? Professor McIntyre discusses the historical, political and technical issues.
In their article Capital Flight from Sub-Saharan Africa on page five, LÉONCE NDIKUMANA and JAMES BOYCE at the University of Massachusets, Amherst, describe their new research into the scale of capital flight from 40 countries in Africa. They find the accumulated stock of capital flight, including interest earnings, to be nearly three times the size of these countries’ external debt. Africa is consequently a net creditor to the world – but the assets are in private hands, while the external debts are borne by the governments, and through them the African people.
DAVID SPENCER, a New York-based attorney and a senior adviser to TJN, in his article From Monterrey to Doha: an Overview examines the importance of the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, and the preparations for the follow-up conference in Doha this year. He outlines a series of far-reaching recommendations for the future.
In the following feature article entitled Waking the Slumbering Giants, ALEX WILKS explores why so many non-governmental organisations have been slow to engage with the tax justice agenda, and explains why this is now starting to change.
Other key articles:
* JO MARIE GRIESGRABER on page 11 describes an ambitious new project involving TJN which aims to help governments of developing countries share successful tax practices and build international mechanisms to mobilise their own resources for development. It aims to help broaden the grassroots push for international tax reform by boosting the involvement of developing-country governments, complementing what TJN and other NGOs are already pushing for.
* TOM CARDAMONE AND NICHOLAS SHAXSON then describe a new project called Mapping the Faultlines, involving Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and TJN, which aims to provide the most far-reaching and detailed investigation to date of the global infrastructure of secrecy and structures that facilitate capital flight and illicit capital flows.
* SVEN GIEGOLD, in an article starting on page 12, takes a look at the recent Liechtenstein scandal from the point of view of his native Germany. He explores how the political arguments on tax havens have developed, and draws conclusions and pointers for the future.
This edition also contains two book reviews. The first, by ATTIYA WARIS, looks at Taxation and State-Building in Developing Countries: Capacity and Consent – which shows how the very act of taxation fosters better and more accountable states. The second review, by BILL FANT, looks at Taxing Reforms, a book about consumption taxes in several countries, with particular focus on the United States.
Tax Justice Focus, Fourth Quarter 2007, Vol. 3, Number 4 – THE ISLANDS EDITION
From the Editors
January 14th, 2008
The Islands Edition - click here
The fourth quarter 2007 edition of Tax Justice Focus (TJF) is a special edition on islands, edited by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen.
In the editorial, The Prospects for Island Havens, we look at the impact on island havens of multilateral initiatives such as those promoted by the OECD, the European Union, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Two views of the future have emerged: one questions whether the island havens can survive in the face of these initiatives and competition from offshore centres like Delaware and London; the other concludes that the island havens are unlikely to disappear any time soon.
In the lead article, The OECD and other International Initiatives: a View from the Caribbean, WILLIAM VLCEK looks at the impact of multilateral initiatives on Caribbean tax havens: while the number of offshore banks has fallen, assets on deposit have risen sharply. He explores strategies that Caribbean havens have used to stay in the game.
RICHARD MURPHY looks at Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man in his article What Future for the Crown Dependencies?, and examines the islands’ evolving tax gymnastics as they try to get around the EU Code of Conduct on Business Taxation. He concludes that they have few options left, and sees economic and political trouble ahead.
NICHOLAS SHAXSON, in The Tax Haven Model: A Fragile Economic Foundation, argues that while tax havens are good at extracting wealth, they have failed to demonstrate where they add value in the process of wealth creation. He notes some similarities between the tax haven of Bermuda and oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, and explores reasons why planning an economic future on being an island tax haven looks like a risky gamble.
Other key articles:
* DRIES LESAGE writes about his disappointment with the latest meeting of the UN Tax Committee in Geneva, where inexperienced delegates grappled with arcane technical matters, and failed to address key political questions that they are mandated and required to address – such as driving a development-centred global tax agenda forwards, ahead of the Financing for Development (FfD) conference in Doha in November-December 2008.
* JOHN CHRISTENSEN summarises a research paper examining how a decision to embrace the tax haven model by his native Jersey (where he was previously economic adviser) has led to a decline, or even collapse, in other sectors like tourism or agriculture, as a result of economic processes that show similarities to a “Resource Curse” afflicting some mineral-dependent nations.
This edition also contains a call for papers and an invitation to participate in a Workshop on Tax Justice, Transparency and Accountability at Essex University in the UK on July 3-4, 2008.
Tax Justice Focus, Third Quarter 2007, Vol. 3, Number 3 – THE FRENCH EDITION
From the Editor
October 5th, 2007
The third quarter 2007 edition of Tax Justice Focus (TJF) is a special edition on accountability, edited by Jean Meckaert, and co-edited by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen.
The articles for this edition were commissioned from mostly French-speaking authors, and edited by Jean Meckaert of the Plateforme Paradis Fiscaux et Judiciaires, with the aim of injecting a French and a Francophone perspective into our work. A key focus of the edition is on France’s and Europe’s role in the offshore world, and on efforts to tackle the offshore scandal.
In the editorial, Objective Doha: Tackling the Tax Havens, we consider the upcoming conference on Financing for Development, and look at the failures of some of the international initiatives to date that have sought to confront some aspects of the multi-dimensional problem of offshore.
In the lead article, Europe Leads the Fight Against Tax Havens, world experts Christian Chavagneux and Ronen Palan examine how Europe is leading the way in efforts to tackle tax haven abuse – with some success; it and looks at some of the challenges facing those who are fighting this battle.
Xavier Harel, who recently published a book about Africa’s oil industry and some of the corruption that surrounds it, has written an article entitled Africa: the Shadow World of Oil, which examines some of the arcane battles that have been going on between wealthy Congolese politicians and American speculative funds in some of the world’s dirtiest tax havens.
Next, Jean Meckaert and Antoine Dulin, in their article Tax Havens and Ill-Gotten Wealth, describe a recent study they have published about cat-and-mouse games to repatriate many billions of dollars looted from the public treasuries of some of the world’s poorest countries, and resistance from rich countries – including France – to handing back the stolen loot.
Other key articles include:
* CHANTAL CUTAJAR writes about economic and financial crime, some of the difficulties in measuring it, and some of the mechanisms that are being considered to try and crack down. A much longer article, available in French, is also available here.
*VINCENT DREZET proposes some interesting ideas about the need for tax co-operation and harmonisation in the European Union, in order to tackle harmful tax competition and tax haven abuse, and he suggests some ways in which this might be achieved.
This edition also contains a report from David Spencer, a senior advisor to TJN, about his presentations of proposals from TJN to a meeting of tax experts in Rome to the UN Financing for Development Office in Rome in September. Alvin Mosioma of TJN4Africa describes the TJN branch’s first Tax Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. We also review three books: Les paradis fiscaux (Christian Chavagneux and Ronen Palan, 2006); Capitalisme clandestin (Thierry Godefroy and Pierre Lascoumes, 2004); and Afrique: Pillage à huis clos (Xavier Harel, 2006.)
Tax Justice Focus, Second Quarter 2007, Vol. 3, Issue 2 - ACCOUNTABILITY
From the Editor
The Accountability Issue - click here to see it (screen version.)
The second quarter 2007 edition of Tax Justice Focus (TJF) is a special edition on accountability, co-edited by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen.
A central theme of this issue is that taxation helps foster political accountability – and that this outcome has been all but forgotten, especially in poor countries.
In the editorial, "Wake Up, Donors", we consider why aid donors have been so reticent about engaging on tax. By and large this is a field that has been left to technical specialists, who frequently treat the issue in isolation from its political dimension and therefore seldom pay attention to the vital role that taxation plays in maintaining lines of accountability between governments and the citizens they rule. We argue that donor agencies need to wake up to this issue, not just because good taxation fosters better governance, but also because the endgame for the donor community should be to reduce reliance on external funding and increase the ability of poorer countries to finance their public services from tax revenues.
Alex Cobham discusses why an international consensus that has grown up around taxation has failed to meet the Four-R tests of good taxation policy: raising Revenue for public expenditure; Redistributing wealth and income; Re-pricing goods and services to adjust consumption behaviour; and fostering better political Representation. Alex concludes that the Tax Consensus needs to be overthrown and replaced by tax systems geared to achieve genuinely sustainable development.
Other key articles include:
* Mick Moore and Nardia Simpson of the Institute of Development Studies explore the links between taxation policy and good governance, and outline practical steps that can contribute to fostering a more consensual relationship between taxpayers and government.
* Richard Murphy, a campaigning Chartered Accountant and senior adviser to TJN, describes the current campaign to strengthen corporate accountability by introducing an international financial reporting standard for country-by-country reporting. This apparently obscure measure for increasing corporate transparency could transform the quality of information made available to revenue authorities.
* Prem Sikka, director of the Association for Accountancy & Business Affairs, reviews the case for a Code of Conduct on Taxation, and considers how TJN's Code of Conduct, which is being finalized for launch in October 2007, will contribute to the emerging global debate about the respective roles of governments, taxpayers and their advisers or agents.
This edition also covers the launch of the Tax Justice Nederland and covers the high level conference on Illicit Financial Flows organized by Raymond Baker's team in Washington at end-June. It also includes important feedback from the first meeting of the African Steering Committee held in Cape Town in June, plus a review of Adrian Henrique's book - Corporate Truth- the limits to transparency.
The next edition will be published in both French and English, and will be guest edited by Jean Merckaert of the Plateforme Paradis Fiscaux et Judiciaires. It will feature articles contributed by a variety of French speaking partner organizations.
Tax Justice Focus, Volume 3, Number 1: INEQUALITY
From the Editor
The Inequality Issue (Click here for screen version)
The first quarter 2007 edition of Tax Justice Focus is a special edition on inequality.
In the editorial, "Trickling Down, or Gushing Up?", we look at economic theories that inequality per se does not matter; boosting the rich will create benefits that trickle down to the poor. TJF points out that while older critiques of this 'trickle-down economics' --that it has failed-- are perfectily valid, one part of the argument has been overlooked: tax haven activities actively turn trickle-down economics upside down, by provoking massive capital flows out of poorer countries into richer ones.
In 'Gender and Taxation Systems' Caren Grown and Imraan Valodia highlight the lack of a gender perspective in current debates about taxation, and the ways that tax policies can discriminate against women.
Other key articles include:
Anna Thomas on Christian Aid's report A Rich Seam, which explores how tax incentives given to companies seeking access to minerals in several developing countries have led to a remarkable erosion of revenue, far outweighing any extra investment that such incentives are supposed to have attracted.
Sheila Killian, lecturer in accounting and finance at the University of Limerick, on how Ireland is embarking on a second round of tax competition, now that high wages and prices have made that country an expensive place to do business in. She finds that this second round of tax competition has sinister, unforeseen implications for developing countries.
Fausto Hernández-Trillo arguing that Mexico's tax policies scarcely contribute to reducing high and persistent levels of inequality and poverty. Mexico's experience brings out an important point: fiscal policy should be considered as a whole, and not just from the tax revenue side.
This edition also covers the launch of Tax Justice Network for Africa and plans for Youth TJN; it provides feedback from the 2007 Tax Justice Council; it covers TJN's role in advising the Leading Group of Countries on Solidarity Levies; and reviews a new book--A Game As Old As Empire--which contains chapters by several TJN members.
The pdf file of this edition, which has been designed with a screen layout suitable for printing on standard A4 paper, can be downloaded here: TJF Vol.3,No.1
The next edition will feature articles around the theme of accountability.
For older editions, click here