If you’re stuck for time just jump to the short YouTube at the bottom for a good summary.
Back in 2005/06 few people were paying any attention to the role of tax havens in the looting of poor countries by kleptocrats and their assistants, and tax was a dirty word in most policy circles.
Tax Justice Network travelled extensively and listened to African tax officials regarding their biggest concerns.
1. Tax competition, and the dirty, corrupt tax deals that ministers were signing with big mining companies, in Burkina Faso, in Mali, in Niger, and across all of the world’s poorest countries.
2. Tax audit capacity. The [African revenue officials] were telling us, ‘We get these brilliant bright officials, we train them – and then they go and join the enemy. When we are up against these gigantic companies, we are totally outgunned by their legal teams.’ And of course the accountants too.
3. You might find a junior auditor with only three or four years of experience of complex transfer pricing issues going up against global companies with half a dozen top tax lawyers and accountants in their team. David against Goliath stuff.
How things are slowly changing; in the last week off Feb 2019 The Economist, hardly a left wing publication (major shareholders, Schroder,Investment Mgt. Cadbury owned by Kraft. Rothschild, Banking etc. Agnelli Family “The Kennedys of Italy”.) is running an article about a fairly new body called Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB), a programme backed by the OECD and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to provide tax assistance to hard-pressed revenue authorities in poorer countries, whose underpaid officials struggle to match the awesome legal and accounting firepower of the world’s multinationals.
This is a vast issue:
IMF research estimates that global profit-shifting by multinationals cheats the world’s treasuries out of around $600 billion a year, while the Tax Justice Network estimates $500 billion annually. Although high-income countries are the biggest losers in absolute terms, it is lower-income countries that are taking the biggest hit in terms of the share of lost revenue – which means that the likely human cost is highest in these places.
Clearly for things to genuinely change it will require international legal and accounting firms (Limited Liability Partnerships) to put “doing the right thing” if not above at least on the same footing as maximising fees and partners income. (Turkeys voting for Thanksgiving or Christmas keeps flashing across my screen).
In addition national governments in the developed world must take a more pro-active role in repatriating stolen billions to the the mainly 3rd world countries from which the funds were stolen. For an up to date account of international kleptomania I recommend.
The almost amusing little YouTube clip.