In our June 2017 Taxcast we ask – has the UK just had its first tax justice general election? Why was economic debate around the election so ill-informed? Are we seeing a popular shift towards tax justice in the UK and in the USA? Is this the beginning of the end of our long austerity winter? How much do people REALLY care about taxes, who pays them and who doesn’t?
Featuring: Vanessa Williamson, Governance Studies Fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes, John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network, Will Snell of Tax Justice UK and with brief appearances by President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Produced and presented by the the Tax Justice Network’s Naomi Fowler.
The 3rd International Conference on Beneficial Ownership Registries will take place in Buenos Aires on June 21st-22nd at Argentina’s Central Bank. It is co-hosted by TJN with Fundacion SES, Argentina’s AML Prosecutor (PROCELAC), the Anti-Corruption Agency and Security Ministry. We blogged about this event last year here and we’ll report back to you once again this year on the highlights.
Global automatic exchange of banking information is set to start among countries that have committed to implement the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS). Similar automatic exchanges have already started between the U.S. and some countries that have managed to sign a FATCA-related Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) although there’s little reciprocity between Tax Haven USA and other nations.
We’ve already highlighted our concerns many times on lack of access by developing countries, and loopholes related to excluded accounts and thresholds, among other problems. But here’s a potential loophole we haven’t discussed before: professional bank accounts held by lawyers on behalf of their clients, allegedly for cases where there are legal proceedings in process (e.g. to pay for the plaintiff’s claims if a lawsuit is lost, to hold assets that will be divided in a divorce, etc.)
At the Global Tax Transparency Summit meeting held in London in December 2016, a senior official from the tax haven of Jersey claimed that one of the reasons for not making their registry of company ownership available to public scrutiny was the lack of a global standard for public company registries. TJN’s John Christensen, himself a former senior official of Jersey’s government, offered to fill that gap, arguing that civil society could provide a standard that serves as a benchmark of good practice. In this cooperative spirit, TJN’s Andres Knobel, based in Buenos Aires, has drafted a new brief on how technology can be harnessed to provide a secure, transparent platform for an online public company registry. Transparency, 21st century-style.
As he so rightly says,
“the technology already exists but commercial registers are hardly taking advantage of it. Where does that leave the fight against corruption? …credit cards use big data to detect fraud, Netflix can suggest targeted movies, Amazon does the same with books, Facebook is developing tools to prevent “false news” and “false amplification” (fake users and coordinated massive ‘comments’, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’) and Israel checks social media in order to identify potential terrorists. All this, and yet meanwhile the creation of ‘legal fictions’ (companies) that are involved in all of these technologies, is still mainly done on paper.“
His report is titled: Technology and online beneficial ownership registries: easier to create companies and better at preventing financial crimes. You can download the full report here.
Civil society and allies are pushing for real (and useful) transparency when it comes to disclosing the beneficial owners (BOs) of companies, meaning the individuals who ultimately own and control the companies that operate in our economies, and that could be involved in illegal activities (e.g. tax evasion, corruption, money laundering, etc.).
After many scandals, including the Panama Papers, the international community is moving in that direction, with the G20, the OECD, the Global Forum, the EU and many countries starting to regulate and require beneficial ownership registration.