Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tax is where the environment was 10 years ago

The headline to this blog is a direct quote from Jeffrey Owens, quoted in an FT story in November 2004. It is a long and detailed story, quoting TJN on several occastions, dating from November 2004. The relevant paragraph reads:

"The OECD's Mr Owens thinks that the emergence of non-governmental organisations intent on exposing large-scale tax avoiders could eventually achieve a change in attitude comparable to that achieved on environmental and social issues: "Tax is where the environment was 10 years ago".

Mr. Owens was certainly prescient: we have been feeling the groundswell for some time. Today, however, we are reading the news in financial markets with some alarm. Tax, as we have noticed, is going to be coming out of the woodwork in all sorts of places in response to this. But many dangers lie ahead too. It could prod the world into a sense of urgency in terms of building better systems of global governance, involving large-scale international co-operation. But it could have a dark side too: leading to isolationism and a rejection of outside influences, which will run counter to a global governance agenda and carry many dangers. Both elements will undoubtedly emerge as a result of this crisis, and they will clash. May it be the multilateralist, pro-governance agenda that emerges victorious.

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