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Tax Justice Focus - the CLIMATE FINANCE edition, Episode 2 (May 2020)
The world is divided between those who worry about the end of the world and those who worry about the end of the month, a French “Yellow Vest” protester said in 2018. That is a starting point for trying to understand how to pay for two emergencies: the huge costs of the unfolding economic shock of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and the even bigger long term costs of re-engineering our economies and our lives needed to stop potentially catastrophic global heating.
According to the International Energy Agency, the world needs $3.5 trillion in global energy-sector investments alone every year until 2050, if we are to limit global temperature rises to 2.0 degrees centigrade.
Many people think that the fight to protect the world’s climate is separate from the struggles to tackle inequality, oligarchy, or racial or gender injustices. This is a dangerous delusion, for – as this edition of Tax Justice Focus shows – the two struggles are inseparable, and each will fail without the other. This is for several reasons.
First, we face many of the same enemies, such as Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch and other powerful interests who have financed both climate denialism and campaigns to persuade voters to cut taxes and deregulate our economies – with the Trumpian aim to override democracy and build oligarchic power at all costs. It is hardly surprising that their campaigns go together: according to the French economist Thomas Piketty, the richest 1% of the planet emit more carbon than the poorest 50%. Meanwhile tax havens reduces states’ ability to address environmental threats, while also providing safe havens for fossil fuel wealth looted from the environment.
A second reason was articulated by the Yellow Vest protesters in France, furious that ordinary folk are asked to pay new carbon taxes while unaccountable elites engorge themselves on state largesse. If the gigantic costs of the carbon transition are shouldered by lower-income groups, their rage at being shafted – again – will create fertile ground for demagogues and conspiracy theorists to recruit them in their millions and overturn the climate movement. This is already happening extensively in the United States, Brazil, and elsewhere, and it is also a reason why the climate movement is struggling to emerge from what one of its leaders has called its “white, middle class ghetto.”
Download and read the full edition of this round of essays here.
The Taiwanese academic and author CHIEN-YI LU outlines a third reason why the two struggles are inseperable, in her article for this edition of Tax Justice Focus. Neoliberalism, an organised programme to usurp democracy by replacing political decision-making with economic calculations, is the bedrock of the climate crisis, she explains. Neoliberalism was always a strategy that used deceit to undermine progressive Keynesian economic ideas, just as climate denialists have undermined climate science. The trick has been to give people the appearance of empowerment through individual choice and freedom – but in the process atomising and dividing them and thus dismantling and discrediting the idea of society, government and the common good. That common good includes the climate, of course. To tackle global heating, or economic inequality, using any approaches based on individual empowerment and freedom will fail.
So economic justice is not just a nice add-on to climate justice: we must join forces. This must not be a story of environmentalists against workers, or of poor nations against rich ones. It is a battle to organise to rebuild the common good, against the tax haven-using carbon elites and economic elitists. There is no other way to proceed.
So: how can we pay for the climate transition in a progressive way?
Part One of our edition on tax justice and the climate, published last month, provided some answers: removing $400 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies; transparency through new climate-friendly accounting standards; activism from groups like Extinction Rebellion; and a scheme to auction carbon permits and redistribute the proceeds equally to all citizens. In this edition, JACQUELINE COTTRELL now shows that carbon taxes can be progressive – if governments step up and design the policies in the right way.
Leading this edition, PETER BOFINGER, arguably Germany’s best known economist, kicks back against a deadly German consensus known as Black Zero: the idea that governments must always match spending with tax revenues and not borrow or run budget deficits. His article Black Zero against the Climate, written for us just before the Covid-19 crisis erupted in Europe, unpacks the “corn economy” fallacies and misunderstandings that underpin Black Zero and shows why states can and must borrow (and use central bank intervention) to pay for the transition. But German thinking has infected the European Union through mechanisms such as the Stability and Growth Pact, and now risks sabotaging the possibility of climate funding.
If states cannot finance the climate transition, then the financial sector will do it.
This would pose immense dangers, not just because states can borrow to spend far more cheaply than private actors can, and because states are accountable to citizens whereas financiers are not.
Financial sector players will also use an array of tried and tested mechanisms to shift the risks of investment onto the public, and shift the rewards to themselves. They specialise in creating and occupying economic choke points through which the vast sums must pass, from which they can milk great wealth that would otherwise be spent on the climate, or on softening the economic blow of the transition (or of the Covid-19 crisis). As former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney crowed earlier this year, the immense sums required to finance the climate transition “could turn an existential risk into the greatest commercial opportunity of our time.”
This is an existential danger to us all. It is the climate version of the Finance Curse, and the subject of our next article, The Wall Street Climate Consensus by DANIELA GABOR, a world expert on finance and shadow banking. The transition can be financed in two ways, she writes. The first would follow a Green New Deal logic, with state-led green industrial policies and monetary policies, and strong penalties for polluters. The other, status quo route, sees private actors providing the financing: they will harvest the rewards while states and taxpayers take on the risks, in a dangerous game of “subsidised greenwashing.” She outlines just how to confront the Wall Street Climate Consensus.
Economic crisis is an opportunity for deep-seated change. The Covid-19 crisis seems unlikely to melt away with a V-shaped recovery, and a return to the status quo. The time to push new ideas is NOW.
The 18th Century political philosopher Edmund Burke summed up how to proceed. “When bad men combine the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
If we do not unite climate justice with economic justice, tax justice, racial justice and gender justice, those worried about the end of the month will become the enemies of those worried about the end of the world. The result will be an environmental, economic and political catastrophe.
Tax Justice Focus - the CLIMATE FINANCE edition, Episode 1 (April 2020)
As the climate crisis comes into ever sharper focus the question of how we pay for a just transition takes on ever greater urgency. In this, the first of a two-part special edition of Tax Justice Focus, guest edited by Tax Justice Network Senior Adviser James Henry, we have brought together key policy proposals to make what is now urgently necessary possible.
This two-part collection of essays is the first in a series of TJN initiatives to bring the global struggles for tax justice, financial transparency, and climate justice closer together, explore common problems and solutions, and help each other to succeed.
Many people think that economic justice is a nice add-on to the climate fight. It isn’t. Without economic justice the fight to tackle the climate crisis will fail. That is because if the great burden of this transition is placed on the shoulders of middle-income and lower-income groups (and especially if the risks of an economically unjust transition materialise, as our second edition will show,) then majorities will not only start to oppose the changes — as the Gilets Jaunes protests in France have shown us — but they will also become prey to fake news and demagogues who seek to overturn the climate justice movement. Tax justice, economic justice, and climate justice must be joined at the hip.
This edition contains five essays, to be followed by four in the next edition.
In the first essay in this edition Laura Merrill, a renowned expert on fossil fuel subsidies lays out the sheer scale of ongoing public sector support for fossil fuels, but also sets out how governments are successfully moving away from this and freeing up some funds to combat climate change — while also improving people’s lives in other ways.
The next article, by Rod Campbell of the Australia Institute, unpicks the bankruptcy of the fossil fuel lobby’s rhetoric in a country that has only recently experienced terrible bushfires.
Next, U.S. economist Professor James K. Boyce, argues in the following article that governments must urgently deploy a powerful and ingenious mechanism to restrict carbon use drastically — and in a politically popular, and just way. The answer is to auction a restricted set of carbon permits – more restricted each year – and redistribute the proceeds equally to all citizens as a universal dividend. Those who use less carbon — which means, predominantly, those in lower-income groups — will receive a net income from the scheme. Eventually the scheme will wither away, as the economy converts rapidly to green energy production, storage, transmission and use.
Then Gail Bradbrook, a founder of the Extinction Rebellion, reflects on the movement’s (enormous) successes and (lesser) failures, and points to how activism will proceed. (Naomi Fowler’s longer version of the Bradbrook interview will be aired in our March 2020 Taxcast.)
Finally, Richard Murphy sets out new accounting proposals to shift the risks being created by large corporations to where they belong – onto balance sheets, so that investors can take a clear and reasoned view of the long-term profitability of companies whose activities harm the climate, and whose business models will now happily come under extreme pressure.
Getting these solutions adopted in a timeframe equal to the urgency of the climate crisis will require us to figure out how to tackle and defeat the shared enemies of both the environmental and tax justice movements: the world’s largest, most influential public and private fossil fuels producers, public utilities, oil and LNG shipping companies, pipeline companies, and agri-businesses — as well as, as the next edition will show the myriad of giant banks, pension funds, hedge funds, other corporate investors, law firms, and accounting firms that stand behind them: tackling the climate emergency will require tackling what academics call financialisation, and what we at TJN call the Finance Curse.
Download and read the full edition of this round of essays here.
The next edition, due on March 26th, will feature articles by
- Peter Bofinger, until recently a member of Germany’s official Council of Economic Advisers, opens that edition with a powerful piece laying out clearly why it has to be the state, especially through judicious borrowing, that leads the climate fight. Unfortunately, old ideologies and Germany’s “Black Zero” obsession with austerity and with curbing borrowing puts the entire climate agenda at risk.
- Daniela Gabor will complement Bofinger’s article, pointing to the exceptional dangers posed by a Wall Street Climate Consensus, now embraced by the World Bank, various central banks, and many others. The alluring argument is that the financial sector can provide the funds to finance the enormous transition: the reality is that while finance can play a role, a finance-led model will eventually create enormous losses to broad populations and to the climate fight – while delivering vast wealth to the financial sector. (As Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said, “This could turn an existential risk into the greatest commercial opportunity of all time.”)
- Jacqueline Cottrell, a member of the Global Conference on Environmental Taxation, writes about the importance of embedding carbon taxes in a broader justice agenda.
- Andres Carvallo, the CEO of a global energy consulting firm, explains how smart grids can break the power of large monopolising utilities and create more just and green forms of energy distribution.
And finally, to coincide with the launch of this new Tax Justice Network series, John Christensen gave a public talk to a Global Justice Now meeting in Reading on 11th March. A copy of the powerpoint presentation John used for this talk is available here.
Tax Justice Focus - the CORRUPTION issue (April 2016)
As Britain prepares to host a global Corruption Summit in London next week, the Panama Papers have raised awkward questions about the country’s role as an enabler of transnational organised crime. Meanwhile evidence is emerging that ordinary people in Britain no longer accept the elites’ version of what constitutes corruption.
The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus – available here – points the spotlight on the British brand of corruption. While elites still talk about corruption as something that happens in another country (typically in the Global South), survey results from YouGov tell an entirely different story about how public sentiment in Britain is strongly in favour of prohibiting practices that have become normal in the past two decades. For example:
- 72 percent of respondents to the YouGov survey said that the practice of government ministers accepting corporate boardroom appointments on leaving office should be banned;
- 75 percent said the practice of senior civil servants accepting corporate consultancies should be banned;
- 62 percent said that inviting private corporations into government to help shape the regulation of business should be banned;
- 68 percent said that Britain’s Public Finance Initiative arrangements for public projects should be banned.
In other words a huge majority of the British public want to ban many of the practices now established as the routine way in which Britain does business and politics. Public opinion on tax avoidance is even stronger, with 85 percent of British adults calling it morally wrong even when ‘legal’ (which is not necessarily the case).
As Guest Editor David Whyte (How Corrupt is Britain?) comments in his editorial:
“We are overwhelmed by the scale, frequency and variety of corruption cases in Britain, from police manipulation of evidence, to over-charging in out-sourced public contracts, by way of cash-for-access scandals involving prominent politicians and price fixing, market manipulation and fraud in key sectors of the economy.”
TJN has long held the view that Britain is at the forefront of the global supply side of corruption. Ten years ago TJN’s director John Christensen slammed the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index for corrupting perceptions of corruption, arguing that:
“The elephant in the living room of the corruption debate is the role played by the global infrastructure of banks, legal and accounting businesses, tax havens and related financial intermediaries in providing an offshore interface between the illicit and licit economies.”
Britain and its offshore satellites – including Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, the Turks & Caicos Islands, and others – is the world’s largest tax haven empire. As journalist and author Nicholas Shaxson (Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World) argues in his contribution to this edition of Tax Justice Focus:
“Prime Minister David Cameron . . . has the authority to require Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to create public registries of beneficial ownership, for starters. and he should not hesitate to exert that power if they resist. Anything less would be hypocrisy.”
Also in this edition:
Allyson Pollock examines how the Private Finance Initiative has been embraced by successive governments and enthusiastically promoted abroad, generating windfall profits for banks and others and driving the marketisation of health and education;
Vickie Cooper looks at how the London and the UK property market has become a laundry for tyrants, mobsters and tax cheats.
Steve Tombs considers how endemic corruption in the UK’s financial sector, which relies on the active connivance of the state and leading political parties, has repeatedly defrauded countless millions of people in Britain and the rest of the world.
“The book . . makes a real contribution to our understanding of modern tourism multinationals, and how tax and tourism are, in fact, increasingly intertwined in the global economy with growing negative impacts for host destinations and local communities.”
You can download the full edition as a PDF document here.
Tax Justice Focus - the WHISTLEBLOWER edition (Nov 2015)
This edition of our newsletter Tax Justice Focus, with a special focus on whistleblowers, is available for download here.
Guest edited by Mary Alice Young of the University of the West of England, this edition is both an exploration of the difficulties confronting people who want to blow the whistle on companies engaged in providing financial services, and an acknowledgment of their personal courage.
The world of offshore finance is shrouded in secrecy. Created by and on behalf of the wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet, offshore finance has been a mechanism for them to sidestep taxation, regulation, investigation and democracy. Offshore secrecy takes many forms, and has been reinforced by the strong omertá that grips the offshore finance industry. As we have witnessed in recent years, banks and accounting firms can be particularly ruthless is their treatment of whistleblowers,and they are supported by the secrecy jurisdictions from which they operate, see here and here for example. As Young observes:
“Offshore jurisdictions are in the business of making life difficult for whistleblowers through formal legislation and through the informal forcement of social codes; the unwritten rules of conduct and the herd mentality that affect those who work in the financial sector. To borrow from hackers’ slang, hostility to whistleblowers is a feature, not a bug; it is an attractive part of the financial secrecy package which offshore jurisdictions peddle to clients.”
But not every banker or accountant is gripped by the herd mentality. Exceptions stand out; people who can resist the lure of high salaries and excessive lifestyles, and who have the courage to stand up for their principles, normally at great personal price. As UBS whistleblower Stéphanie Gibaud comments in the lead feature article:
” . . when one understands that there is something wrong with private banking – in effect, offshore banking, blowing the whistle internally or externally can feel like committing suicide: a quick death or a long and painful one, but the end of a certain kind of life, nonetheless.
. . . the so-called privileged elite is extremely well organized and is united when it comes to defending their own interests. Private banking is one part, an important part, of this organization in defence of privilege.
Once you have blown the whistle in the private banking sector, well-trained managers will do all they can to crush you like an insect. Their techniques will vary in intensity from demotion and social isolation all the way through to discrimination and harassment. Your reputation will suddenly be ruined throughout the financial sector. Insurance companies and business partners but also the clients of the private banks will all hear about your supposed failings.”
Whistleblowing is not for the faint-hearted; as TJN’s director, John Christensen, himself a whistleblower, dryly observes, anyone who exposes the corrupt practices of the offshore enablers can expect
“Savage kickback from employers whose business models are based on secrecy; they will do whatever it takes to punish you as a deterrent to others. The rich and powerful are at their most thuggish when their backs are up against the wall.”
In this edition:
Stephanie Gibaud reflects on her experience in private banking and explores the reality of what happens once someone decides to speak out about unethical or illegal activity, and stresses the lengths to which the banking industry will go to ensure that the whistleblower is isolated, degraded and denounced. She goes on to ask a number of searching questions about the silence that surrounds elite criminality.
John Christensen reflects on his experiences when he decided to speak out about malpractice in the highly secretive jurisdiction of Jersey, and gives a sober assessment of what whistleblowers can expect from their colleagues, employers, friends, media and judiciary once they stick their heads over the parapet.
Kenneth Rijock, both a lawyer and convicted money launderer, gives wouldbe whistleblowers a brief introduction to information security – the techniques that we can use to avoid detection by crooked employers and, ultimately, jail.
William Byrnes introduces us to three of the highest profile whistleblowers from the financial sector, and explores the relationship between whistleblowing and tax compliance and highlights the much anticipated legislation of several offshore jurisdictions who are looking to introduce statutory laws to protect whistleblowers who report tax crimes.
Radio producer Naomi Fowler talks about the extraordinary difficulties journalists face when trying to persuade editors of the newsworthiness of offshore finance. In Naomi’s words:
“As a journalist and citizen I thought these issues were dynamite, something to be shouted from the rooftops, that everyone should know about. But radio stations wanted mafia stories from Sicily or bribery stories from Latin America, where I was sometimes based. To no avail I tried to explain I had much bigger corruption stories from the City of London, of staggering global significance.”
And Dan Hind reviews Richard Murphy’s new book The Joy of Tax, reflecting that “Murphy has done terrible damage to the cosy consensus that once protected the offshore sector. In The Joy of Tax he sets out to do the same to the onshore conventional wisdom. It is one hell of a fight to pick. But he’s used to apparently impossible odds.”
Download The Whistleblower Edition here, and feel free to circulate it to colleagues and friends.
Tax Justice Focus - the GENDER edition (May 2015)
In the lead article, Mae Buenaventura of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) notes that women represent around two thirds of the poor in Asia, and explains how harmful tax policies imposed on developing countries have disproportionately impacted women. These have important human rights impacts.
In the editorial, Liz Nelson of TJN explains that gender and tax justice is not an untold story – feminist writers and others have been engaged on these issues for decades. The question is: how to get these voices heard.
In her article Gender Equality Requires more Tax Revenue, Diane Elson, chair of the UK Women’s Budget Group, complements Mae Buenaventura’s article by looking at the issues in wealthier countries in the OECD, particularly Spain and the UK.
In the next feature, Prof. Kathleen Lahey of Queen’s University looks at various international initiatives and bodies that have engaged on these issues, and argues that the dominant so-called ‘taxing for growth’ agenda pushed by the IMF, World Bank, OECD and EU have disproportionately harmed women. She outlines a number of ‘tax for sex equality’ policy solutions.
In our final feature article, the writer and performer Caroline Horton talks about her highly successful (and controversial) recent play Islands, explaining how she used the grotesques of Bouffon Theatre to challenge the clean lines and plush interiors of offshore’s self-presentation. As she puts it: “In ‘Islands’, gender is twisted, god is a woman with silvery testicles, there are men in dresses; the whole gang is foul, dirty and misshapen.”
The edition also carries an interview, entitled Gender in the Cayman Islands, by May Hen, who has carried out extensive anthropological research on the small British Overseas Territory, characterised as a ‘frontier society’ pursuing ‘voluntary colonialism’. Gender rights appear to be far less advanced than in most modern wealthy countries: but it is also a fascinating insight into the cultural realities of a classic offshore tax haven.
Tax Justice Focus also carries a book review of The Rise and Rise of the Wealth Extractors: Why We Can’t Afford the Rich By Andrew Sayers, and a section of latest news highlights from the fascinating, infuriating world of offshore.
Tax Justice Focus - the PROFESSIONS edition (Nov 2014)
The latest edition of TJN’s newsletter, Tax Justice Focus, is available for download here.
Guest edited by Will Snell, this edition explores the role played by accountancy and legal firms, and others in the financial services sector (collectively referred to as intermediaries or enablers), in shaping the global tax system.
In his editorial, Will notes that intermediaries play a (the?) key role in advising corporate clients on how to comply with international tax laws, but poses an awkward question: what do we understand by compliance? As Will comments:
“If we mean that laws are not broken, then we have little cause to complain about the role played by most accountants (we certainly cannot reasonably make allegations of tax evasion against the ‘big 4’ firms). Recent legislation, at least in the UK, has curtailed the more blatant examples of (legal) tax avoidance, so the number of abusive tax avoidance schemes has fallen sharply. However, if we define tax compliance as paying the right amount of tax, in the right place, at the right time, then we do have reason to look more critically at the role played by accountancy firms.”
Will also invites TJF readers to contribute their views to this short online survey about how the tax justice movement should engage with the accountancy and legal professions. Please take just a few minutes to answer this survey. Click here for the editorial.
Atul Shah, in his feature article, argues that there is a conflict between the contractual pressures on accountants to enhance the commercial position of their clients by minimising their tax liabilities, and their public duties to the society that granted them their professional privileges, and that this conflict should be recognised and addressed by the professional associations. There is also a role for government, in examining the negative impacts of legislation that exposes accountancy firms to the risk of legal action by clients who feel that their tax advisers have not acted to maximise their commercial interests. Click here for his article.
Chartered accountant Rebecca Benneyworth explores the widespread concern among smaller firms that they are coming under pressure to advise on tax avoidance schemes without having the professional competence to do so. Many accountants would rather focus on the ‘day job’, advising their clients on how to grow their businesses, without getting embroiled with tax avoidance. This is a timely reminder to the tax justice community that accountants can be allies as well as foes. Click here for her article.
Tax barrister David Quentin looks at the legality of self-assessed tax liabilities, the role of tax accountants and lawyers in relation to them, and wider issues of professional ethics. At present, he argues, the tax advice industry can make up the law to suit its clients, placing the onus on the revenue authority to mount a challenge. Professional regulatory bodies need to step in, Quentin proposes, and impose stricter duties on tax advisers in order to protect public funds from systematic predation. Click here for his article.
In the fourth feature article, Stephen Littler, observes that the vast majority of corporate social responsibility reporting by major accounting firms and other tax intermediaries neglects one of their core business activities: the provision of tax advice. Until this anomaly is corrected, he argues, it is difficult to have an informed and comprehensive conversation about tax transparency and ethics with accountancy firms. Click here for his article.
In her review of Paola Profeta and Simon Scabrosseti’s book, The Political Economy of Taxation: Lessons from Developing Countries (Edward Elgar Publishing), Attiya Waris finds this an “excellent addition” and encourages researchers with a focus on African development to apply the author’s findings to analyse African states and their economies.
And finally, the new round-up covers TJN-Africa’s bid to the Kenyan High Court to block the Kenya/Mauritius double tax treaty; covers the ICIJ investigation into the ‘magical fairyland’ of tax haven Luxembourg; considers the increasingly awkward position of the EU’s Grand Panjandrum, J-C Juncker as he tries to defend the indefensible concept of tax “competition”; looks to Spain, where the rise of the Podemos party poses a serious challenge to the business-as-usual shenanigans of a failed elite; and marks the success of the Fair Tax Mark in signing its first FTSE100 company. All that and more in the news-in-brief section.
Download a copy of this edition of Tax Justice Focus here
Tax Justice Focus - the HUMAN RIGHTS edition (June 2014)
This edition of Tax Justice Focus focuses on the theme of tax justice and human rights, perhaps the fastest-growing area of interest in the rapidly expanding global tax justice community.
Click here for the full edition of Tax Justice Focus, the Human Rights edition.
You can also access the individual articles below.
Adrienne Margolis, guest editor, notes in her editorial Tax Justice and Human Rights: the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship? that tax policy has wide-ranging implications for human rights throughout the world, not least because financial secrecy is indispensible to modern tyranny. Now, law, accountancy and economics stand to be transformed as the public trace the connections.
Magdalena Sepúlveda, former U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, explains in her article Taxation for Human Rightsthat states have a self-imposed duty to deploy “the maximum available resources” to secure the human rights of their population. Fiscal policies mean that many of them are currently failing in that duty.
The subsequent article by Lloyd Lipsett, rapporteur for the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights, explores how lawyers have played an important role in creating the offshore system. Lloyd Lipsett argues that they cannot wash their hands of responsibility for its impact on fundamental human rights. (see this article also on Open Democracy)
We then host Prof. Thomas Pogge of Yale University, who notes in his article Human Rights and Just Taxation that around half the world’s population is denied the right to an adequate standard of living – and this will be remedied if their governments can secure adequate tax revenues from large companies and wealthy individuals.
Our final feature article, The Celtic Chimera, is by Prof. William K. Black of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ireland has been at the forefront of moves to bring the offshore model into the heart of the onshore economic system – and it is also suffering disproportionately from the impact of austerity. These two facts, he notes, are connected.
The full edition of Tax Justice Focus also includes a tax justice-focused review of Thomas Piketty’s world famous book Capital in the Twenty First Century – along with further news, views and updates. Click here.
Tax Justice Focus - The COUNTRY BY COUNTRY REPORTING edition (March 2014)
This edition of Tax Justice Focus is guest edited by Richard Murphy, the originator of the idea of country-by-country reporting. A little more than a decade after he first began to develop the concept, Murphy has brought together authors from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), from Global Witness and from the European Network on Debt and Development. Together they present a unique picture of the current state of the campaign for country-by-country reporting throughout the world.
In his contribution Joseph L. Andrus of the OECD summarises the contents of the organization’s ‘Draft Discussion Document on Transfer Pricing’ and invites responses from the full range of interested parties.
Tove Maria Ryding of EURODAD describes how intense lobbying from business – with energetic assistance from the UK government – led the European institutions to delay discussion of country-by-country reporting until 2018. Is this good enough? Time and the citizens of Europe will tell.
In the United States a form country-by-country reporting has made it onto the statute books. Section 1504 was introduced to combat corruption in the extractive sector. Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness tells the story so far and highlights what is at stake. Adequate accounting in the mining sector could be the prequel to much greater transparency across the private sector.
And Will Morris of the CBI gives two cheers for country-by-country reporting. While he welcomes the idea of greater transparency, he worries that Murphy’s proposals won’t do the work that their author thinks they will.
Richard Murphy himself introduces the articles in the Focus, describes something of the history of country-by-country reporting and sets out its key features. The phrase has gained ground in the last ten years. But its author is still working to secure the substance of his original proposals. He does so in the teeth of opposition from some of the most powerful lobbies on earth.
Download the edition here, and please circulate to colleagues and friends.
Tax Justice Focus - The FINANCE CURSE (Sept 2013)
Tax Justice Focus, Sept 2013 – The Finance Curse edition
In partnership with Open Democracy
- Doreen Massey – The ills of financial dominance
- Adam Leaver – the Metropolitanisation of Gains
- Nicholas Shaxson – From Resource Curse to Finance Curse
- Tamasin Cave – Finance in the UK: more than a lobby
- John Christensen and Nicholas Shaxson – The Finance Curse Intro
With a letter from Cyprus, an analysis of FATCA, and a book review.
Tax Justice Focus - MYTHBUSTERS (May 2013)
Tax Justice Focus, May 2013 – The Mythbusters edition.
- Daniel Stedman Jones – the Mythical Adam Smith
- Aeron Davis – The City of London, media myth and reality
- William Davies – Enterprise and Rent-seeking: a mythical conflation
- Robin Ramsay – Mythical thinking in the political class
Tax Justice Focus - TRANSFER PRICING edition (Nov 2012)
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.
Tax Justice Focus - INEQUALITY edition - July 2012
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.
Tax Justice Focus - the OCCUPY edition (April 2012)
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
Tax Justice Focus - the SWITZERLAND edition (Oct 2010)
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.
Tax Justice Focus - the NATURAL RENTS edition (May 2010)
Tax Justice Focus, Volume 6, Number 1 – The NATURAL RENTS edition.
May 25th, 2010
The Natural Rents edition – click here
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.
Tax Justice Focus - the JUSTICE edition (Jan 2010)
Tax Justice Focus, Volume 5, Number 2 – The JUSTICE edition.
From Paul Sagar, guest editor
January 14th, 2010
The Justice Edition – click here.
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.
Tax Justice Focus - the LATIN AMERICA edition - Sept 2009
Tax Justice Focus – THE LATIN AMERICA EDITION
From Matti Kohonen, guest editor
September 6th, 2009
The Latin America Edition – click here
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
Tax Justice Focus - the NEXT STEPS edition (Jan 2009)
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.
Tax Justice Focus - the RESEARCH edition (July 2008)
Tax Justice Focus – THE RESEARCH EDITION
From the Editors
July 18th, 2008
The Research Edition – click here
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.
Tax Justice Focus - The DOHA edition (April 2008)
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 - The ISLANDS edition (Jan 2008)
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 - The FRENCH edition (Oct 2007)
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 - The ACCOUNTABILITY issue (2Q 2007)
Tax Justice Focus, Second Quarter 2007, Vol. 3, Issue 2 – ACCOUNTABILITY
From the Editor
The Accountability Issue – click here
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 - The first INEQUALITY edition (2007)
Tax Justice Focus, Volume 3, Number 1: INEQUALITY
From the Editor
The Inequality Issue (Click here)
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
Tax Justice Focus - older editions
|Quarter 4 2006||en||TJF vol 2, no.4 –The Tax Competition edition|
|Quarter 3 2006||fr||TJF vol 2, no.3 édition française – numéro sur l’Afrique|
|Quarter 3 2006||en||TJF vol 2, no.3 – The Africa Issue|
|Quarter 2 2006||en||TJF vol 2, no.2 – The Corruption Issue.|
|Quarter 1 2006||en||TJF vol 2, no.1 – The trade issue|
|Quarter 4 2005||en||TJF vol.1, no.4 – The capital flight issue|
|Quarter 3 2005||en||TJF vol.1, no.3|
|Quarter 2 2005||en||TJF vol 1, no.2|
|Quarter 1 2005||en||TJF vol 1, no.1|
|Quarter 4 2003||en||Tax Justice Newsletter|
The inaugural TJN newsletter - Sept 2003
Inaugural newsletter, September 2003
When nobody was discussing these issues.