UK parliamentarians have the opportunity to take historic action over the next two days, ending decades of financial secrecy in the UK’s Overseas Territories.
As Parliament closes down before the General Election which will take place on the 8th June, a lot of ongoing business is now at risk. A range of Bills that have been through multiple committee stages could be lost completely, required to start from scratch in the new Parliament. But some will make it through in the intense activity of the ‘wash-up‘:
The wash-up period 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.
As governments (slowly) get to grips with the fact that tax havens are inflicting great harm on economies and democracies across the globe, facilitating mega amounts of tax dodging, and vast movements of criminal money by way of the secrecy services some of them offer, the question of our times is how we deal with them. Attempts to create tax haven blacklists (in order to potentially implement sanctions for non-cooperative jurisdictions) have so far been farcical as we’ve noted many times, most recently commenting on the European Union’s current work compiling its own blacklist system, here and here. So far the criteria for inclusion in tax haven blacklists has been weak, such lists have been ineffective and it’s been far too easy for some of the world’s worst offenders to wriggle their way out of them, or simply be big and bad enough not to worry about being included in the first place – for example – Tax Haven USA. If the EU, or anyone else really wanted to do this properly, the work’s already been done for them – with the best objective ranking available – the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index.
The Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. It’s a politically neutral ranking, the world’s most effective tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight. The Tax Justice Network is working hard on the results of the next Financial Secrecy Index.
What’s coming next?
We’re calling campaigners, researchers and lovers of tax justice and financial transparency to make sure you know that tomorrow, on 14th February 2017 at 14:00 CET we warmly welcome you to attend our first Financial Secrecy Index monthly call in the form of a webinar.
UPDATE: 15 February 2017, London – Bloomberg has reported that the chairman of the EU’s Panama Papers inquiry has criticised the UK Treasury for refusing to meet with its investigatory team during the recent fact-finding visit to London. Read more here.
Last year the Panama Papers scandal shook the world and lifted the lid on murky offshore dealings in spectacular fashion. The political consequences and investigations, criminal and otherwise are far from over. The European Parliament set up the Panama Papers inquiry committee tasked with investigating “alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application by the EU Commission or member states of EU laws on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion.” Today Bloomberg reports that the committee begins a series of ‘secret fact-finding meetings’ in London for two days. It has come to the heart of the beast.
There has been much talk of the threats from the British Chancellor to turn the UK into a full-blown tax haven post-Brexit if the European Union doesn’t give it a good trade deal. We discussed ‘Brexit threats’ in our January podcast. Now our Director Alex Cobham has written an article for Politico on how, contrary to how it may appear, Brexit actually gives Brussels more power to address British tax and financial secrecy.