Life’s full of surprises, some pleasant, some not so much. Imagine you had undeclared offshore assets when the global financial crisis struck, and you’ve nervously watched the world move towards TJN ‘s proposal for multilateral, automatic information exchange. Until now you’ve probably felt ok, and that you had a choice between two moves. Either you could say ‘Ok, the game’s up – I’ll use an amnesty or some kind of disclosure facility, and go straight’; or you could decide to keep hidden, using the new loopholes that are being actively promoted in Switzerland and elsewhere.
You probably weren’t worrying too much about the past though. Information exchange will relate to existing holdings, so you just need to get things lined up before it kicks in (from September 2017 or after). But as India’s Economic Times reports,
“The worst fear of those with secret offshore bank accounts and private trusts is coming true — some tax havens are ready to part with ‘old’ records and even details of trusts and foundations that no longer exist.”
India cracks down on a major tax evasion route
A guest blog by Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
My award winning essay, written for a competition jointly held by the Tax Justice Network and Oxfam International, focused on how India is unable to meet its child rights obligations as it loses a huge amount of tax revenue because of some policy decisions taken by the government. These decisions enable tax abuse, and as is being increasingly understood, tax abuse is a human rights issue.
One of these decisions is the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Mauritius, a favourite tax haven for Indians. Under this, Mauritius based companies selling shares of Indian companies are effectively exempt from capital gains tax. This encouraged tax evaders to route investments into India through Mauritius based shell companies, leading to lots of tax revenue foregone. Official data states that over the 15 year period from 2000-2015, the highest amount (34%) of total FDI into India was from Mauritius, valued at US$ 93.6 billion.
So Pfizer will bring its tax bonanza back to the U.S.? Uh-huh CBS News
See also: Americans are queuing up to slam Pfizer’s tax-inspired move to Ireland Yahoo News / The Journal
Tackling tax across borders Public Finance International
Mozambique PM rues Africa tax collection crisis Star Africa
Bob Jessop: an historical approach to national competitiveness Fools’ Gold – rethinking competition
Pfizer’s Big Breakthrough: Global Tax Avoidance The New York Times
“The $160 billion deal to combine Pfizer and Allergan, the maker of Botox, does not appear to be illegal. But it should be.” See also: Another big corporation is flagrantly dodging tax. This must be outlawed The Guardian, and Congress Must Act Now to Stop Pfizer and Other Companies from Inverting Citizens for Tax Justice
Update, Dec 7, 2015: a new paper in the Journal of World Business, which contains this:
“Home country statutory corporate tax rates have a small impact on tax haven use. In general, corporate tax rates are an important factor in driving MNEs to set up tax haven subsidiaries. However, as long as there is a significant gap between tax rates in OECD countries and those in tax havens, our results suggests that reducing corporate tax rates will not substantially change the likelihood of MNEs setting up tax havens subsidiaries. MNEs will continue to take advantage of the host country specific advantages available in tax haven locations, which include minimal rates of corporate income tax, light-touch regulation and secrecy.”
Our emphasis added. Which strongly supports the conclusions of the reports we cite below.
“In 2013 the OECD, supported by the G20, promised to bring an end to international corporate tax avoidance which costs countries around the world billions in tax revenues each year. However, with the recently announced actions against corporate tax dodging, G20 and OECD countries have failed to live up to their promise. Despite some meaningful actions, they have left the fundamentals of a broken tax system intact and failed to curb tax competition and harmful tax practices.”
In dollar terms, G20 countries are the biggest losers – while low income developing countries such as Honduras, the Philippines and Ecuador are hardest hit because corporate tax revenues comprise a higher proportion of their national income. The G20 Heads of State are expected to consider a package of measures they claim will address corporate tax avoidance at their annual meeting in Turkey on 15th and 16th November.
The key reforms are the OECD’s so-called “BEPS” project on corporate tax cheating, which we’ve written about extensively. And the details from the report:
“In 2012, US multinationals alone shifted $500–700bn, or roughly 25 percent of their annual profits, mostly to countries where these profits are not taxed, or taxed at very low rates. In other words, $1 out of every $4 of profits generated by these multinationals is not aligned with real economic activity.”
These findings are based on major new TJN research by Alex Cobham and Petr Jansky, which can be found here (and will be permanently available on our “Reports” and “Magnitudes” pages: it focuses on U.S. multinationals, not just because it’s important, but also because of data availability.)
Here’s a picture that illustrates one important aspect of the problem:
For some, that may seem like just numbers and graphics. But as the report notes, this has major implications:
“As governments are losing tax revenues, ordinary people end up paying the price: schools and hospitals lose funding and vital public services are cut. Fair taxation of profitable businesses and rich people is central to addressing poverty and inequality through the redistribution of income. Instead, the current global system of tax avoidance redistributes wealth upwards to the richest in society.
That is why civil society organizations, united in the C20 group, together with trade unions, are calling for the actions announced by the OECD to be regarded only as the beginning of a longer and more inclusive process to re-write global tax rules and to ensure that multinationals pay their fair share, in the interest of developed and developing countries around the world.”
Claire Godfrey, head of policy for Oxfam’s Even it Up Campaign said:
“Rich and poor countries alike are haemorrhaging money because multinational companies are not required to pay their fair share of taxes where they make their money. Ultimately the cost is being borne by ordinary people – particularly the poorest who rely on public services and who are suffering because of budget cuts.”
Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of Public Services International said:
“Public anger will grow if the G20 leaders allow the world’s largest corporations to continue dodging billions in tax while inequality rises, austerity bites and public services are cut.”
Alex Cobham, TJN’s Director of Research, said:
“The corporate tax measures being adopted by the G20 this week are not enough. They will not stop the race to the bottom in corporate taxation, and they will not provide the transparency that’s needed to hold companies and tax authorities accountable. It’s in the G20’s own interest to support deeper reforms to the global tax system.”
The report is available in French and Spanish too, on the Global Alliance for Tax Justice site.
The full paper behind the report is published in the peer-reviewed working paper series of the International Centre for Tax and Development – the leading international and interdisciplinary academic centre in its field, funded by the UK and Norwegian governments: