Thursday, March 31, 2011

Don’t be fooled by WPP’s return to the UK

We had hoped to dedicate some time to discussing an article with a similar headline from the Progressive Tax Blog, but time has run out for the time being. Instead, we will merely point to the original article (which is a little technical for the non-expert, but worth the effort), and a follow-up from Accountancy Age, reaching similar conclusions.

It comes in the context of what George Monbiot described as the corporate tax Heist of the Century; Richard Brooks' recent submission to the UK Treasury Select Committee on the same subject, and this follow-up from Richard Murphy discussing how in the Finance Bill it has panned out even worse than had originally been feared.

In short, the blog notes that

George Osborne [UK Chancellor, or Finance Minister] is already hailing this is a vindication of his policies, and talks of the ‘tax base’ of WPP returning to the UK.

The Progressive Tax Blog exposes this claim as nonsense: the move will have little impact on tax or employment in the UK. And when it does return and tax kicks in, the tax payable on offshore financing profits will be so low (5.75%) that it will probably pay no UK corporation tax when combined with interest deductions in the UK.

The Progressive Tax blog concludes:

"The amazing thing is that in order to claim the PR for WPP’s return, George Osborne has relaxed the rules even further than previous proposals (already favourable) meaning that every other UK multinational that had no intention of leaving the UK is ecstatic. Given that WPP’s return will not increase employment or corporate tax take in the UK, why has George Osborne waived through the death of UK corporation tax for multinationals?
"

Or, as Accountancy Age puts it:

The chancellor is paying a lot of money for very good PR.

This is important, important stuff. The current British government is taking an axe to corporation taxes, at a time of stunning deficits and savage cuts. UK Uncut needs to keep returning to the streets, and continuing to mobilise people on this. It is, quite simply, horrifying what is being done.

We're sorry we can't, for now, give this the full overview treatment it deserves. We hope to return to it before too long.

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Links Mar 31

G20 Update for March 2011 Heinrich Boell Stiftung
In "G20 countries tackle corruption", Tom Cardamone of our friends at Global Financial Integrity discusses the efforts of the G20 to curb corruption and argues that they should not be underestimated. And in "The US: Still CEO of the Free World?" Nancy Alexander of Heinrich Boell draws from a Wikileaks cable to describe the U.S. sherpa’s discussion with his European counterparts and to caution against dismissing the G20 as a sideshow.

Press Release: Development organizations challenge Ireland on tax justice Eurodad

Mar 30 - Poor countries are being robbed of tax revenue and Ireland is not doing enough to stop the theft, according to 6 leading global development organisations.

Press Release: BAYER appearing poor to tax authorities CBG Network

Mar 30 - BAYER is carefully adjusting its accounting in order to appear poor to the tax authorities. The company thereby reduces its corporation tax burden at the expense of the taxpayer. The fact that BAYER now hardly contributes to community financing is unacceptable.

Tanzania: Expert faults local gold investments allAfrica.com

Mar 30 -
The article explains why Tanzania, despite being rated as the third largest gold producer in Africa after Ghana and South Africa, still earns ‘peanuts’ from the industry due to non-collection of corporate taxes as the mining companies allegedly operate under losses. Hat tip Sandra Kidwingira.

Folly of 'no-new'tax' policy Business Word Online

Mar 30 - Interesting development in the Philippines. Hat tip Attiya Waris.

Ugandan Activists call on UK Prime Minister to end resource curse Publish What You Pay

Mar 29 - Activists deliver a letter to David Cameron from 200 Ugandans. “These activists have sent a message to David Cameron that his government should show leadership in reforming UK laws and pushing other European countries to do the same. He has the power to help countries like Uganda benefit from their oil and thus build a more prosperous, fair and peaceful global society.”

Exploring the Role Delaware Plays as a Domestic Tax Haven Social Science Research Network
Jan 10 - "Our results suggest that the state of Delaware is indeed a domestic tax haven in the sense that its corporate laws appear to enable firms to reduce state tax burdens." Hat tip Markus Meinzer.

Letter to the Editor: 60 Minutes Segment on Corporate Tax Avoidance Tax Analysts
(Subscription required)
Mar 30 -
Nicole Tichon, executive director of Tax Justice Network USA, responds to a March 27 60 Minutes segment on corporate tax avoidance featuring Martin A. Sullivan, economist and contributing editor at Tax Analysts

Prix Pictet Monocle

In case you might have been missing out lately on doses of marveling at sheer, massive hypocrisy, you might want to savour the issues in this piece. Quoting from the Prix Pictet site: "Launched in 2008 by the Geneva-based private bank Pictet & Cie, the Prix Pictet has rapidly established itself as the world’s leading prize in photography and sustainability." The Chair of the prize jury enthuses on photos of "the developing world, showing wonderful portraits of people making the best of their situation under really awful circumstances". Consider also - Kofi Annan is Honorary President.

Panel Chairmen: Cut $200 Billion from Budget The Onion

Nov 17 2010 - While this inimitable analysis is from a few months ago, nonetheless it remains relevant. Check out the 2nd and last recommendations especially. Which also reminded us - and having just seen the excellent film Inside Job - of this article:$700 Billion Bailout Celebrated With Lavish $800 Billion Executive Party.

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Were UK Uncut activists victims of politically motivated policing?

An ugly picture seems to have emerged around the policing tactics used against UK Uncut activists who carried out non-violent direct action against Fortnum & Mason store on Piccadilly last Saturday.

Did police officers mislead or even lie to the protesters?

Did the police have a political motive in trying to paint an image of UK Uncut that would harm the latter's reputation and distract from their arguments about the harm caused by corporate tax avoidance?

TJN and and other organisations have penned a letter condemning what we see as politically motivated policing tactics apparently designed to intimidate and criminalise legitimate protest. The letter is in today's Guardian newspaper and is reproduced in full below.

The Guardian, Thursday 31st March 2011

Policing must not be politically motivated

As a relatively new protest movement UK Uncut have played a significant part in changing the terms of debate around economic policy in this country. Indeed they were instrumental in ensuring more people were at the march on Saturday than otherwise would have been. At all times they acted in a way which complemented and supported the TUC march.

However, in taking the type of peaceful action which they routinely undertake, on Saturday UK Uncut were treated in a political and deceptive manner by the police which sends an ominous message about the right to protest. It would appear activists were misled by the police about not being arrested when asked to leave the Fortnum & Mason building, after which they were held for a significant length of time, their clothing was confiscated, and they have been denied the right to protest in the near future.

We support the right to protest for a fairer and more equal world. As part of this, we condemn any politically motivated policing which provokes, intimidates or criminalises protesters. We will continue to support UK Uncut until tax justice is secured so the poorest are not forced to pay the price of a financial crisis caused by the richest.


John Hilary
War on Want,
Nick Dearden Jubilee Debt Campaign,
Liz Nelson Tax Justice Network,
Neal Lawson Compass,
Mark Serwotka PCS,
Jeremy Dear NUJ,
Len McCluskey Unite,
Andy Egan People and Planet


Postscript: since publishing this blog, our attention has been drawn to Andreas Whittam Smith's thoughtful article in today's Independent, in which he rightly draws attention to the harsh treatment meted out on non-violent protesters compared to the relatively lax policing of those engaged in more violent protest away from Fortnum & Mason: "intelligent policing that goes after the violent troublemakers, while finding a modus vivendi with peaceful if unconventional demonstrations, is required. This week's arrests of Uncut supporters may not have been wise in this respect. For at the same time only 11 people were charged for the more violent protests elsewhere in the capital, including serious disturbances in the West End during which police were pelted with ammonia-filled light bulbs."

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Two interviews on tax havens

A long interview on tax havens TJN's Nicholas Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands, on Radio 5 Live. Click here.

Also, from the Treasure Islands site, this:
"A long piece on tax havens, which is really excellent, in my opinion. It's in the latest edition of Dazed & Confused, an independent magazine dedicated to cutting-edge fashion, culture and all round interesting stuff. The article is by one of my favourite authors.

You can catch the author on TV, in eloquent form, here."



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Ed Hadas of the FT on Greenspan's FT article

There have been a number of demolition jobs of Alan Greenspan's article in the Financial Times defending financial liberalisation: Naked Capitalism, Paul Krugman, and others. One that seems to have been overlooked is by Ed Hadas, editor of the FT's Lex column:

Responding to Greenspan's argument that the more complex a financial system gets, the more growth there is. There is, indeed, some evidence for this: poor countries, as they acquire more cash and capital, need more complex financial systems, certainly. Hadas comments:
"It is a very interesting argument, and not even a foolish argument, unlike much of that article which seems to be a peculiar defence of not doing anything. . . . There is a positive and close tie from a certain level of development up to maturity. After that point the question of whether there is too much becomes a more interesting thing.
He argues, of course, that things then starts to change direction. A lot of the instruments - the CDOs squared and so did a lot of damage.

The questioner responded: Go back to a simpler financial system, you can go back to a quieter period, and growth was much slower?

Hadas: In the 1950s and 1960s growth was very good. World growth was extremely good.
. . .
The ultimate question is whether finance in itself is a good thing on its own. If you think of it as a tax on the system, a cost that you have to have of growth is to have more finance . . . there is a good case to be made that finance is something to be controlled, measured and kept in proportion to the amount of good that it's doing, and financial complexity after a certain point no longer does that good.


Here is the point from a TJN point of view: tax havens, or secrecy jurisdictions have, almost by definition (indeed one IMF working paper used this definition, and found the UK, among others to be one) oversized financial sectors. And that's a pointer, at least, to where it's all gone wrong. Too much finance ain't good. And that's what tax havens are all about: too much finance.

OK, this, in itself is merely suggestive: it isn't a slam-dunk against tax havens. There's much, much more to be said on this subject. Read it here.

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Driving the Getaway Car: Ireland, Tax and Development

When it comes to tax policy, is Ireland a fine example or a horrible warning? This question has a bearing on development strategies way beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle, which is still struggling to contain the fallout from a banking crisis that threatens the .

A new report by Dr Sheila Killian of the University of Limerick argues that Ireland's corporate tax regime can be abused by multinational companies (MNCs) engaged in tax evasion and illicit capital flows. Despite recent reforms to transfer pricing rules, significant weaknesses remain that provide MNCs with opportunities to create abusive international tax avoidance schemes to reduce tax payments in other countries. The result, according to Killian, is a policy incoherence which, among other things, goes against Irish commitments to ensure that government actions contribute to global development and do not undermine the objectives of Irish Aid.

This policy incoherence cuts to the heart of current thinking on development. As the report illustrates in the following flow chart, external debt burdens are closely linked to weak tax effort (the ratio of tax receipts to GDP) and increased dependence on external loans and aid programmes. The latter typically impose conditions which further undermine tax justice and ultimately contribute to fiscal and economic crisis. Tax competition lies at the very heart of this cycle.

Ireland has famously - and controversially - used its low corporate tax rate as a bait to attract foreign direct investment, and despite its current fiscal and economic crisis, strongly resists external pressures to remove some of the loopholes that allow the tax system to become a vehicle for complex tax cheating schemes. As we have blogged elsewhere, companies like Google are attracted to Dublin not so much by the 12.5 percent tax rate as the ability to use Ireland as a part of a more elaborate tax structure - in Google's case employing the Double Irish (and Dutch Sandwich) techniques involving the routing of profits through Ireland and the Netherlands.

Despite being a relatively small player in both the European and global contexts, Ireland is able to exert a quite extraordinary influence on international tax policy. This influence derives from very active participation at a number of international fora, including the OECD, the UN Tax Committee and, of course, the European Union. This puts Ireland in a position of choosing between being a force for good in promoting enhanced international cooperation on tax matters, or a force for bad in blocking progress in that direction. In TJN's experience, for example of observing at sessions of the UN Tax Committee, Irish representatives have in the past more generally aligned with blockers such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom.

The big question facing the incoming Irish government is whether - and how - to modify their corporate tax regime in ways consistent with the commitment to "work for a coherent approach to development across all Government Departments." (Government of Ireland White Paper on Irish Aid, 2006). And can this be achieved without adversely affecting the country's ability to attract inwards investment? Killian proposes 11 recommendations which, she argues, would strengthen policy coherence while also providing potential net future gains for the Irish economy. These measures include:

- Adjustment to the transfer pricing regime;

- Abolition of tax exemption on patent royalty income;

- Negotiation of tax treaties with a wider range of countries;

- Promoting enhanced tax information exchange, preferably on an automatic rather than on request model;

- Promoting a country by country financial reporting standard for MNCs.

Driving the Getaway Car is a timely and useful contribution to an urgently needed debate. The new Irish government faces tough choices on tax policies. The current situation is unsustainable and a new development strategy is urgently required. They can either opt for further tax competition, which we would argue is harmful to the interests of other countries and ultimately self-defeating (see Sheila Killian's article in Tax Justice Focus here), or they can strike out in a direction that reduces harmful impacts on other countries and contributes to strengthening internal fiscal sustainability.

As Killian argues in this report, the current tax policy mix is not coherent with existing commitments to avoid causing harm to other countries. Change is necessary, but does the current government have the appetite to take on the vested corporate interests who find the current corporate tax regime, with all its gaps and loopholes, very much to their liking?

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

GE vs. the NYT: dispatches from the battlefield of tax PR

Recently we linked to a New York Times article on General Electric in which it was reported that the company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion and $5.1bn in U.S. profits - and paid no tax. In fact, the NYT reported, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

Shocking stuff. GE, of course, came back and said that the report was all hogwash. Well, there's been a lot of back and forth on this. There are various accounts worth reading, including this short reaction, and this CTJ commetary on the extraordinary shenanigans that go on in GE's tax department, and its ability actively to shape the law, with tidbits such as this:
"Provisions of President George W. Bush's huge corporate tax cut bill in 2004 were "so tailored to G.E. and a handful of other companies — that staff members on the House Ways and Means Committee publicly complained...".
This all goes to underline our point about the folly of those who argue that companies merely have a duty to shareholders to minimise their tax liability, within the letter of the law, and that if you are going to complain about tax avoidance then you should complain to government, and to government only. As we have said, it is always essential to remember the Golden Rule: who has the gold makes the rules. Hold governments to account, for sure - but hold the corporations' feet to the fire too. They are, after all, huge players in the creation of tax law, the world over. Just look at Richard Brooks' recent submission to the UK Treasury Select Committee on the horrors of UK plans to eviscerate the corporate income tax for multinationals, to get a flavour (we hope to blog this in more detail soon.)

But down to specifics on GE, and here is a fascinating account by Business Insider, which describes a complex dance between themselves and GE's public affairs department:
"We asked some specific questions of GE--because we wanted to determine whether the New York Times was wrong or whether GE was just trying to spin everyone."
And the result? Well, there's quite a lot to report; here is a sample:
"We asked GE whether the New York Times had, in fact, "grossly oversimplified the facts" or had just gotten them wrong.

GE temporarily went silent.

So we asked again.

And again.

Eventually, GE piped up, with a non-answer."
There was the GE statement, which suggested that the NYT was wrong - though that turned out, Business Insider found, not to be as simple as all that. And the debate went on, for quite some time. The story ends, via a first update (and a whole lot more back and forth), concluding that both GE and the NYT were wrong. And then came update 2:
"Wow, just when we thought it was over... The NYT may be off the hook, at least on the "federal income tax" assertion. No sooner had we published our conclusion that the NYT's statement was "flat-out wrong" than the NYT came right back and said there wasn't a single factual inaccuracy in its article, which was why GE hadn't asked for a correction. And, more importantly, the NYT sent us an AFP article in which GE spokesperson Anne Eisele--the same spokesperson who wrote the comment below--said the following: "GE did not pay US federal taxes last year because we did not owe any."
. . . .
It suggests that GE is still trying to find a way, any way, to talk its way out of this, even if that means giving out false information. . . . We have asked Anne and GE, once again, to explain themselves. They're working on getting us a response."
We hope Business Insider doesn't mind our reproducing (with picture quality degraded, to blunt copyright issues) their photo of GE's Jeff Immelt, with the excellent caption
"The New York Times is full of it. Just ask my PR team."

Oh, and take a look at Francine McKenna's article about GE's auditor KPMG, noting among other things that it has been the KPMG auditor for - yes - 102 years, and complementing CTJ's analysis about KPMG's lobbying power.


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UK House of Lords say the Big 4 are anti-competitive, complacent, derelict of duty

From the Tax Research blog, an important pointer.

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A major win for UK Uncut

It's worth our highlighting an article published yesterday by UK Uncut, with the above headline. We hope they won't mind our re-posting this in full. We should add that we at TJN would probably want to take some credit for this, as should a handful of others including (especially) Richard Brooks and the Guardian Tax Gap team. But UK Uncut deserve huge, huge credit for getting the people out into the streets - and building up considerable and indispensible political pressure.

A Major Win for UK Uncut
Posted on Tue 29th Mar 2011, 6:05pm

Amidst all the news reports bouncing back and forth right now about mass arrests and political policing, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what we’re fighting for, and how far we’ve come as a group. Today saw the launch of a public inquiry, to be conducted by the Treasury select committee, into the issue of corporate tax avoidance.

An issue which, six months ago, didn’t even figure on the political map for many, is now taking centre stage and, one way or another, this Government will be forced to listen. What is more, the executives of some of the worst offenders – hopefully Barclays, Vodafone and Boots amongst them – will be called to answer questions before the committee about their “tax efficiency” practices. With a bit of luck, Sir Philip Green might even have to explain to his former employers why he felt that the £250m he dodged would be better spent on his lifestyle rather than schools and hospitals for the people who buy his products. The coalition has already been put on the back foot over tax avoidance, thanks in a large part to the hard work and dedication of UK Uncutters up and down the country. The Government mentioned several new anti tax-avoidance measures in last weeks budget, and is even discussing a blanket anti-avoidance law, similar to the one in Australia. This inquiry will ramp up the pressure on Ministers to introduce such a bill sooner rather than later.

Occasionally people ask us what we’ve achieved and what we hope to achieve at UK Uncut. When they do, we think not only of the empowering, inspiring, creative direct actions we’ve taken, of the networks of friends and activists we’ve forged, or of the debate we’ve lit about the genuine alternatives to these unnecessary cuts. We also think of hard won political victories like the one we’ve seen today, victories which will, slowly but surely, bring about real political change.




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Links Mar 30

Clark sees leeway in bribes law Financial Times
Mar 29 - Foreign companies with London listings may be exempt from new anti-corruption laws, UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said: it "only extends to companies carrying on a business in the UK". This is a classic example of the UK degrading its regulations for foreign investors in order to attract dirty money, reinforcing London's role as a secrecy jurisdiction. Also see this, from Global Witness and this from Christian Aid.

General Electric exposed as world class tax dodger Citizens for Tax Justice
Mar 25 - Our friends at CTJ comment on General Electric obtaining a negative corporate income tax rate on its U.S. profits. Its public filings show that it had $26 billion in U.S. profits over the last five years. Instead of paying federal corporate income taxes, G.E. actually received a net benefit of $4.1 billion from the IRS over that period. See also: GE, KPMG, spin and tax avoidance Tax Research UK Mar 30.


Vulture funds law set in stone Jubilee Debt Campaign UK
Mar 28 - Good news. A landmark law to protect poor countries from so-called vulture funds is to be made permanent by the UK government. But the threat is not over - A US fund, FG Hemisphere, is suing the Democratic Republic of Congo for $100 million through the Jersey courts. Jersey - a UK Overseas Territory - gets to pick and choose which UK laws it passes, and it hasn’t passed this one as yet. See earlier blogs here and here.

Why did fiscal stimulus work in Sierra Leone during the crisis
The Centre for Development Policy and Research
March 2011 - Why Sierra Leone’s proactive fiscal stimulus during the global crisis proved to be successful—despite deeply ingrained scepticism of the Bretton Woods institutions about its usefulness. Hat tip: Attiya Waris.

Budget reaction: death of UK corporation tax for multinationals confirmed Progressive Tax Blog

Mar 23 - Further to the UK finance bill: "The Budget announcement today goes even further than previous proposals to encourage multinationals to avoid UK corporation tax through moving financing profits to low-tax subsidiaries. Multinationals typically use intra-group financing transactions to manipulate taxable profits as financial capital is highly mobile and ‘hybrid’ transactions can be used to eliminate profits altogether."

Why cutting corporation tax in Northern Ireland means public spending cuts and job losses Progressive Tax Blog
Mar 28 - Comment on the UK's consultation Rebalancing the Northern Ireland Economy. Seems clear that the only way to cut corporation tax in Northern Ireland to the tax rate of the Republic of Ireland's 12.5% would be to slash spending by the Northern Ireland Executive on public services (and public sector jobs), and hope that this increases growth in the long term. A serious gamble to take with the Northern Ireland economy.

Iceland bank probe widens Wall Street Journal

Mar 29 - Probes by the U.K. and Icelandic authorities into the failure Iceland's Kaupthing Bank have widened to include Luxembourg. Arrests in connection with investigations have included
high-profile U.K. property moguls Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz. See also earlier link to a Mar 18 article in the Daily Mail : "Keeping track of exactly what the [Tchenquiz] brothers did or did not lose during the crash is virtually impossible. They operate through a web of interconnected companies domiciled — mainly for tax reasons — in a number of jurisdictions, and no one outside their close-knit network knows the true extent of their worth". Hat tip: anonymous.

No federal tax expense for Bank of America Charlotte Observer

Mar 25 - Bank of America had no federal income tax expense for a second straight year and actually reported a tax "benefit" of nearly $1 billion. A 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office report that found 83 of the largest 100 publicly traded companies have subsidiaries in offshore tax havens - Bank of America had 311 foreign subsidiaries, including 115 in tax havens. Check out Video: US Uncut's Day of Action The Nation Mar 27.


Doing God's work: How Goldman Sachs rigs the game Spinwatch

March 2011 - Goldman Sachs has cultivated political contacts around the world, not just in the US capital. Matt Taibbi famously called Goldman " a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” Overtly the bank does not have much of a lobbying presence, but by these covert channels it gets its tentacles around our democratic process. Hat tip The Cynical Tendency.

Third party ownership rears its head again BBC

Mar 23 - In the money-driven realm of football (US translation: soccer), more financial shenanigans. A new investment fund set up by the former Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and Ronaldo's and Jose Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes will invest in the economic rights of players. It's fund is registered in Jersey to reduce tax paid by potential investors.

Banks can keep embassy accounts: US regulators Reuters

Mar 25 - Financial regulators have clarified that banks can provide services to foreign diplomatic missions and still comply with anti-money laundering laws after several major banks moved to close embassy accounts. Again, we ask the question: if there is now a suspicion of money laundering, then why were the funds accepted and accounts opened in the first place?

AstraZeneca tax deal to boost 2011 earnings BBC

Mar 28 - AstraZeneca has announced that US and UK tax authorities have agreed a deal over the pharmaceutical giant's tax bill. Similarities with the widely publicised Vodafone case which spurred UK Uncut.

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Tax Justice in colourful language

Someone call Billy Bob has put up a Facebook page containing a series of strident tax justice slogans, many of which contain the headline (or a footline) "Tax Justice Network," as if we wrote them. Some of these are quite funny (see this picture, for example). But a few of them use rather, er, shall we say colourful (and occasionally mis-spelled), language.

While we applaud the enthusiam of the sign writer, we should point out that these are not bona fide TJN signs!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NEF: Britain leads devastating race to bottom on financial regulation

Reposted with permission from the Treasure Islands Blog:

Now, following Jeffrey Sachs' encouraging article in the Financial Times, I note this important new report from the New Economics Foundation in London entitled UK holding back progress on global financial stability, says nef. I'm delighted to see that it quotes Treasure Islands in several places (and it quotes TJN's director, John Christensen). Now look what they are saying in their press release, entitled :

The UK itself is a ‘haven’ that threatens the stability of the global economy. We call for the UK to live up to its image as a pre-eminent global financial centre and demonstrate strong international leadership on better regulation instead of pandering to vested financial interests.”
- Tony Greenham,
head of Finance and Business at nef.

Absolutely. The message is getting out. This stuff was simply not being said until very recently. Why it's taken so long for the world to wake up is a mystery. And look at what else there is:

By engaging in a race-to-the-bottom on financial reform, the UK undermines global financial stability with potentially devastating consequences for the global economy. . .

In several cases the UK is actively choosing to not tackle tax havens. While the UK claims it cannot influence tax havens, many are UK Crown Dependencies or Overseas Territories, where a past history of intervention suggests otherwise. HM Treasury confirms that the UK has reserve powers enshrined in the constitutions of the Overseas Territories to affect and block legislation. The UK also has the power to intervene to uphold ‘good governance’ in the Crown Dependencies. . . The UK exerts a downward pressure on the quality of financial regulation in a range of ways.

Will you look at that. If you've read Treasure Islands, you will be nodding your head furiously. I am nodding as I read the NEF report, which I didn't know anything about until this morning. What is more, NEF has done a lot of good work fleshing out my own, looking at London's role in leading the race to the bottom on commodity trading, the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), and in undermining EU efforts to tackle problems associated with naked short-selling.

As I've just said, the message is spreading. And look at the kind of recommendations they are making:

  • Tax havens: Eliminate tax havens that are under UK control, and work with the US, the EU and other international authorities to co-ordinate regulation of global tax evasion and avoidance.

The Independent covers this here. So does the Mirror. The full report is here. It's an important one - pass it on.


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Jeffrey Sachs joins the tax justice movement, sort of

We've had our beefs with Jeffrey Sachs in the past, but he has, to his great credit, just written a humdinger of an article in the Financial Times, entitled Stop this race to the bottom on corporate tax. The first half of the article could have been written by TJN. Here are some examples of what he says:

"Both the US and UK have experienced a profound shift of income distribution from the poor and the middle-class to the rich in the past 30 years yet the fiscal adjustments are dominated by sharp cuts on public services combined with reductions on corporate tax rates. The social contract is under threat. Only international co-operation can now solve what is becoming a runaway social crisis in many high-income countries."

Not sure why he focuses on high-income countries only - tax competition is threatening developing countries at least as much, as this article and associated link explains -- but the general thrust is absolutely right. As is this:

"With capital globally mobile, moreover, governments are now in a race to the bottom with regard to corporate taxation and loopholes for personal taxation of high incomes. Each government aims to attract mobile capital by cutting taxes relative to others. Governments like Ireland have created tax havens that drain revenues from the rest and act as conduits to tax-free Caribbean hideaways such as the Cayman Islands. The rich are doubly benefited: by the underlying market forces of globalisation and by their governments’ policy response."

Again, absolutely right - and it's particularly important that he has focused on Ireland, which is so often overlooked by those who think tax havens are solely in the Caribbean, or Switzerland, or Monaco. The most important ones are, as we have long noted, OECD nations.

We can't get enough of the first half of this article - here is another crucial section:

"Both the US and UK are aiming to do the impossible: run a modern, high-technology, prosperous 21st-century knowledge economy without the requisite tax base, largely to satisfy the upper classes and multinational companies, which threaten to decamp to milder tax regimes, or direct their campaign contributions elsewhere, if they do not get the tax cuts they obsessively crave. . . . The symptoms of a devastating race to the bottom are everywhere."


Again, straight out of TJN's camp.

The second half of the article is where we don't necessarily agree with him - where he argues for austerity now, in contrast to economists such as Paul Krugman who argue for delaying budget rebalancing and focusing on Keynesian stimulus for now. We at TJN generally don't take a strong position on spending levels, because we work on the revenue side of things, though we know many of our members would come down on Krugman's, not Sachs', side in this debate.

Sachs also credits the UK government, albeit in a nuanced way, for doing some work to stem the race to the bottom, when it is working aggressively in the other direction - see the highly knowledgeable Progressive Tax Blog for example, to see just how awful this is, or George Monbiot's article earlier.

But he correctly notes that Ireland has clung to its "irresponsible" tax haven status, the U.S. leadership seems to be facing disastrous lack of political backbone on this front, Canada is heading downwards, and so on. (We might add Northern Ireland, threats from Wales, Scotland, to name just a few.)

He also calls for international co-operation on this - and particularly on the OECD to take a lead in helping stop the rot. We have seen the OECD serving so very often (though not always) as a malign force in the field of international tax (here's a recent example) that we're not sure this is going to get very far. But it's excellent to see voices like Sachs' giving them big prods like this.

By the way, just to clear up any possible misunderstanding from the headline, we haven't been in contact with Sachs, and he hasn't "joined" TJN in any way. But now that he's written this article, he might as well have.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Offshore: The biggest scam in human history?


Seen on the march in London last Saturday and forwarded to us by a reader. Anyone disagree?

It seems that a lot of people in France would agree.


See the accompanying story, in French, here. Hat tip: Jean Meckaert. (For non-French speakers: Paradis Fiscaux means Tax Havens, or Secrecy Jurisdictions.)

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Where do the despots of the world hide their money? London!

From the London Evening Standard, a doggedly researched and useful piece (we already linked to it on March 18, but it deserves special treatment) that contains a number of choice candidates for our quotations page, such as:

"Since the Arab revolutions began, my BlackBerry has been ringing off the hook," says London estate agent to the super-rich Trevor Abrahmsohn. 'Every time there is a political uprising in a foreign land, London is always the first port of call,' he continues. 'When the first Iraq war was raging, the Saudi royal family bought ten bolt-holes on The Bishop's Avenue [in Hampstead, also known as Millionaires' Row], just in case Saddam Hussein ended up marching on Riyadh.'

And there's this, which readers of Treasure Islands would be most familiar with:

Abrahmsohn believes London's former role as capital of an empire adds to its pulling power. 'London has connections all over the world because of our colonial past. Foreign elites have a fascination for things like the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Most potentates, sultans, kings and diplomats have first or second homes here. The wives love the shopping and it is easy logistically for the husbands to do business and make money. It is tax-efficient and politically safe for them to keep their money here.'

Tax-efficient: there is that weasel term again! Tax 'efficient' for the potentates, of course. Not quite so tax-efficient for the citizens of their benighted countries, of course: ordinary folk there effectively have to pay their taxes for them.

The Evening Standard story contains a voice of sanity, near the bottom, however:

"Dr John Chalcraft, who is, ironic-ally, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, rejects the realpolitik arguments for dealing with despots such as Gaddafi and Mubarak and believes the British government has a 'moral case to answer'. 'It is not necessarily to our economic advantage to deal with corrupt and despotic regimes.

Indeed. Hat tip: anonymous, somewhere in the Caribbean.

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Violent demonstrators: "We are not UK Uncut"


There have been many stories in the press over the past 24 hours suggesting some sort of link between the excellent UK Uncut and the violent actions in London on Saturday 26th March. Here is our take on what we saw during the course of that afternoon, which we attended.

TJN took part in the TUC march, which was a great success. The top photograph conveys a sense of the glorious carnival of colour, music and general good-naturedness of this major event.

In mid-afternoon (14h00) we went to Oxford Street to witness events in and around that street. We saw several stores closed down by UK Uncut activists, or which had simply closed in anticipation of UK Uncut actions. All peaceful and good-humoured. This picture we took outside Dorothy Perkins reflects what we witnessed, which, BTW, is consistent with the article filed by The Independent newspaper about what they saw at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly:
"While groups such as Black Bloc were smashing windows on Oxford Street, UK Uncut members were reading books in groups on the floor and tucking into home-made sandwiches."


However, when we reached TopShop at Oxford Circus a quite different atmosphere was evident. The store front had been damaged and many police has been splattered with paint. Nothing too bad, but not consistent with what was happening elsewhere under the UK Uncut banner.

A large crowd had gathered at the Circus itself, and although the atmosphere at that stage (15h30) was largely peaceful and good humoured, we did see one group who appeared to be marshalling the crowd to some kind of rampage. We asked them what their plans were and whether they were associated with UK Uncut, and one of their number, who seemed to be taking charge of their actions, replied quite simply "We are not UK Uncut."

It was clear, to us at least, that infiltrators were piggy-backing off peaceful events organised by UK Uncut, and were intent on very different kinds of actions. Worse, after speaking with this character below (dressed as the hero of the dystopian thriller film V for Vendetta), who told us direct that "tax is theft" and he supported Philip Green's tax avoidance, at least some of the people present at Oxford Circus were radically opposed to UK Uncut, instead pushing a libertarian position from the right: anti-tax, anti-state, and supportive of tax cheats. While clearly in a minority, we were left with a strong impression that attempts were being made to provoke people in the crowd.


The situation was clearly very messy and deteriorating, so we left.

P.S. Verso have published this interesting blog by Dan Hind, author of The Return of The Public. Police acting as agent provocateurs? In Britain? Surely not! Sadly we have witnessed exactly this type of thing at other events - including the UK Uncut events at TopShop on Oxford Street on 18th December 2010 - so we find Dan's blog plausible. Do watch the BBC footage he links up to.

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10 Celebs Who Hate Paying Taxes

Question: What do Wesley Snipes, Joan Baez, Val Kilmer and Dionne Warwick have in common?

Answer: A profound aversion to paying taxes.

Readers of TJN's blog at BSchool.com have asked us to share the following posting. You can find the original here.

It makes no sense that celebrities don't pay their taxes. They often get paid an exorbitant amount of money to do what they do; it really shouldn't be a problem to set aside a chunk for Uncle Sam, who has proven by now that he doesn't like it when you hold out on him. Most perplexing of all is the fact that these people are, you know, famous. They're high-profile people, raking in wealth in a very public way. Did they think they could just pretend not to have the money?

We all saw the movies, heard the music, and watched the shows. We know how well you're doing. Socking away an extra million in the mattress and then claiming ignorance is just sad. Let this be a lesson: you're never too big to pay your bills, especially where the federal government is concerned.

1. Wesley Snipes
: Even winning a Blockbuster Entertainment Award can't keep you out of hot water with the feds. Wesley Snipes had a decent career going for a while: comedies like Major League and White Men Can't Jump, sexy-but-not-really thrillers like Rising Sun and Murder at 1600. Plus who can forget the prescient vision of Demolition Man? Unfortunately, by the mid-'00s, most of his work was releasing straight to DVD. Either as a cause or effect, he started running into money troubles. He was hit in 2006 with charges of conspiracy and tax fraud, as well as multiple counts of a willful failure to file his income tax returns. This was the beginning of Snipes' long road to ruin. He was found innocent of conspiracy but guilty of failure to file his return, and in April 2008, he was sentenced to three years in prison. Appeals were rejected, and in December 2010 he reported to prison in Pennsylvania, where he'll be housed until July 2013. Hang tough, Willie Mays Hayes.

2. Joan Baez
: Of all the celebs to ever skirt tax law, Joan Baez is one of the least surprising. In the late 1960s, a number of high-profile artist signed the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest pledge, promising to withhold income tax in protest of the Vietnam War, but Baez beat them to it. In 1964, the folk singer took a public stand against the man by refusing to pay most of her taxes. True, a 100 percent withhholding might have had more punch, but still, refusing to pay the IRS 60 percent of what you owe them is going to get you in the papers. That was also the year Baez founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, and she also encouraged concert attendees to resist the draft. She was not, to put it kindly, the Johnson administration's favorite person.

3. Nicolas Cage
: What do you know, the guy capable of freaking out like this turned out to have some instability in his personal life. Nicolas Cage, nee Nicolas Kim Coppola, nee Nicolas "Fruitcakes" Coppola, has been a major star for a couple of decades now, owing largely to his volcanic personality and willingness to don a bear suit and beat up women (on screen, of course). But it's the mighty that fall the hardest, and after a series of major real estate purchases and sales starting in 2004, Cage ran into tax trouble. In July 2009, the IRS filed papers in Louisiana claiming unpaid federal taxes, claiming that he'd stiffed them for more than $6 million in 2007. Later that year, Cage sued his business manager for fraud, effectively saying that it was all the manager's fault that the government never got their checks. The manager filed a counter-complaint (yep) that said, essentially, that Cage was spending money like a madman, investing everything in real estate and a certain type of lifestyle that was flashy but profitless.

4. Joe Francis
: Running afoul of the law is never fun, but there's something grimly pleasing about seeing the book get thrown at Joe Francis, who became famous for aiding the exploitation of college girls on Spring Break by giving them T-shirts in exchange for letting him film them make out and fool around. Yes, Francis was the mastermind behind Girls Gone Wild, a video franchise that at one point raked in $40 million a year. In 2007 Francis graduated with an indictment of federal tax evasion from a Nevada grand jury. The Department of Justice claimed that he took more than $20 million in deductions he didn't earn, and when the location shifted to California, Francis pleaded not guilty. Long story short: he got arrested for not showing up to his hearing, then eventually pleaded guilty in September 2009 to filing false tax returns. That November, the IRS placed a lien of almost $34 million on his accounts for failure to pay taxes from 2001-2003. Maybe he can pay them in plastic beads?

5. Sinbad
: Sinbad seems like such a nice guy, you know? His stand-up comedy is family-friendly and laced with nostalgia, and his TV and movie appearances — A Different World, Houseguest — are similarly broad. But the guy's made some bad spending choices, and he's made the issue worse by not taking into account how much he actually owed the federal government. In 2009, he made news as one of the worst tax debtors in the state of California, owing more than $2.5 million (!) in personal income tax. It got so bad that the comedian declared bankruptcy, stating he had only $50,000 in assets but up to $50 million in liabilities. (For the non-accounting majors out there, that's a bad ratio.) In early 2010, he put his home up for sale to start whittling away at the debt. Let this be a lesson: no matter how awesome people tell you your parachute pants are, you should always save money for a rainy day.

6. Richard Hatch
: Even by the standards of celebrity ignorance, this is a bone-headed move. Richard Hatch was the first winner of Survivor here in the U.S., a pop culture feat that came with a $1 million prize. For reasons no one will ever be able to understand, Hatch didn't declare his winnings when filing his taxes for that year, perhaps hoping that his accountant wasn't a fan of reality TV. Even dumber, he apparently didn't declare the $321,000 he earned from promotional radio appearances. There's only one way this could have ended: punishment. Hatch was indicted in September 2005 and found guilty of tax evasion the following January. In May 2006, he was sentenced to 51 months in prison, but in May 2009, he was released to serve a term of home confinement. He got in more trouble (yes, more) for giving unauthorized interviews while under house arrest, finished his sentence in October 2009, and found himself back in court in December 2010 for — you guessed it — failing to file federal tax returns. On March 11, 2011, he was sentenced to 9 months of prison time to be followed by a couple years of supervised release.

7. Dionne Warwick
: How did Dionne Warwick not see this one coming? (Zing!) After a lengthy career as a singer, actress, and professional spokesperson for a totally reputable group of psychics, Warwick was revealed to be quite the tax delinquent. A 2009 story disclosed that she owed more than $2 million to the government. At the time, her representative said that Warwick was working to pay off the debt, though she's also apparently been spending a lot of time in Brazil.

8. Pete Rose: Weirdly, Pete Rose's personal income tax issues feel like the least of his concerns, at least from the standpoint of rehabilitating his image from the shellacking it got when he confessed to gambling on baseball games (including those featuring his own Cincinnati Reds) and getting permanently banned from baseball. In 1990, Rose fessed up and pleaded guilty to charges of filing false income tax returns. He'd made money from selling autographs and from gambling on horse races — the man's got a style, that's for sure — and in July 1990, Rose was given five months' time in an Illinois prison and fined $50,000. He saw release the following January, but his debt to society wasn't repaid until he'd logged 1,000 hours of community service and paid more than $360,000 in back taxes. Way to go, Charlie Hustle.

9. Val Kilmer
: Val Kilmer's off-screen persona — well-meaning, slightly bonkers — has lately come to overshadow his on-screen career. Once one of the hottest leading men in Hollywood, he's recently been spending a lot of time on his New Mexico ranch. Perhaps because of his increasingly tenuous ties to his old life, he hit some rough patches recently, particularly with regard to tax law. At the end of 2010, it was revealed that he owed almost half a million dollars in back taxes, the result of which was a lien placed against his ranch. The property was put up for sale with an $18.5 million price tag, and though that's a steep asking price just to rest your head in the home of the star of Real Genius, it's also a discount from the previously proposed $23 million.

10. Nas
: Nas — who beefed with Jay-Z and had a baby with Kelis — is just one of the many musicians to get rich and forget to cover his assets. In fall 2009, news broke that the IRS had placed a lien against his property for a staggering $2.5 million and change, asserting that he didn't pay his income tax in 2006 or 2007. Considering he's already shelling out $50k a month to Kelis for child support, this was probably not a welcome development for the rapper. Over time, though, the story got worse: an update in January 2011 revealed that he owed more than $6 million. His story is an unfortunate one, but a reminder that he and others who've been hit with such bills have brought the problems on themselves. It's not like he woke up one day and was suddenly $6 million in the hole. If you don't pay what you owe, the IRS will come after you. Period. This tax season, be sure to claim your earnings, file a clean return, and be honest. Anything else is just suicide.

Thanks again to the bloggers at BSchool.com. If anyone else wants to prepare similar posts for celebs in other countries (and let's face it, celebrity tax cheats are fairly prolific these days) feel free to send your post to us - with all the relevant back-up please.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

TJN joins huge rally in London

TJN was well represented at today's massive trade union rally in London against the government imposed cuts. Special trains and hundreds of coaches from across Britain brought a diverse and good-humoured crowd (the organisers stopped counting at a quarter of a million people) into the capital.


While we enjoyed the carnival atmosphere of the huge rally, it was also gratifying to see how many people were carrying posters making the point that an alternative to public service cuts is to cut Britain's tax gap - estimated at £120 billion. The tax gap is an estimate of losses of revenue due to tax evasion, tax avoidance and tax simply not being collected. Even if just 20 per cent of the gap were collected, the scale of cuts being imposed by the government could be massively reduced.

Away from the trade union march, UK Uncut activists held non-violent sit-down actions across London's West End, closing many stores - the picture below was taken at Dorothy Perkins on Oxford Street [part of Philip Green's retail empire] - and for the first time targeting Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Links Mar 24

The Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) Z/Yen
March 2011 - The aim of the GFCI is to examine the major financial centres globally in terms of competitiveness. Check out pages 22-23 on Offshore Centres, with commentary on their decline. A quote in this section from a Trust Fund manager based in New York. "I left the Caymans recently - business was going through the floor - and I'm happy to be working back on the mainland." London is top of the financial centres index, but intriguingly the report's authors do not seem to consider London a tax haven - we suggest they read Treasure Islands. Also that they check out the Financial Secrecy Index.

Everyone has a stake in US Uncut's fights The Nation

Mar 21 - "For the most part, people agree that rich corporations should pay their fair in taxes, namely because citizens have to pay taxes, so why should the lavishly wealthy get to avoid them?" On March 26, US Uncut, along with UK Uncut, Australia Uncut, Canada Uncut, Mexico Uncut, France Uncut, Netherlands Uncut and Sudan Uncut plan to collectively demonstrate as one in cities across the globe.

Protesters ask Swiss to return Ben Ali funds swissinfo.ch

Mar 24 - Demonstrators in Tunisia have called on Switzerland to hand over the funds of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, which the Swiss government froze in January.

Argentina: 16 arrest warrants for tax evasion on grain sales Wall Street Journal

Mar 22 - More on this story we have linked to previously. The Argentine tax authorities
have launched a host of investigations against the farm sector -one of the country's most important industries- amid accusations by the government of widespread tax evasion. Multi-national grain exporters have been evading taxes by triangulating their grain trading operations through other countries, among other measures.

Evasion and waste The Economist
Mar 23 - "Eliminating tax evasion is something all finance ministers tend to promise but few achieve ... Evasion and waste are the Holy Grails of finance ministers. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for eliminating corporate welfare and preventing the wealthy from hiding their money offshore. I'm just not convinced it will happen without internationally co-ordinated efforts."

Tax defaulters could take HMRC to court Accountancy Age

Mar 22 - Tax evaders could launch human right court battles against the UK's HM Revenue & Customs for keeping them under scrutiny, warns a City law firm.

UK: Corporation tax giveaway eludes banks Financial Times

Mar 23 - From the UK budget, as other companies cheered the additional 1 percentage point cut to corporation tax, banks saw the benefit immediately wiped out by an unexpected £100m a year increase to the new £2.5bn annual levy on their balance sheets put in place earlier this year. So, how much creative accounting via tax havens will be employed to avoid this seeming imposition?
“The chancellor has once again chosen to raid the banks to pay for the cuts in corporation tax,” said the global head of tax policy at Ernst & Young - hardly, the tendency is that the less well off are the ones who pay disproportionately and feel the pain from the cuts.

Rapper Ja Rule pleads guilty to tax evasion Reuters

Mar 23 - Rapper Ja Rule pleaded guilty on Tuesday to failing to file tax returns and promised to pay more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties. "Each of us must pay our fair share to keep this country going," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement.

Dolce and Gabbana may face a criminal trial for tax evasion New York Times

Mar 24 - The celebrity Italian fashion designers are caught up in a major tax evasion investigation, accused of failing to pay taxes on more than $1 billion in income."So far, the case has generated remarkably little fanfare in Italy, a country where tax evasion is regarded by many people, including some in the fashion world, as a national sport." Papers filed by prosecutors in a Milan court allege a “criminal design” to defraud the state, which involves the use of a holding company in Luxembourg.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Links Mar 23

Raising Government Revenue in Africa: A Road Out of Poverty istockanalysts
Mar 21 - Article written by Mark Plant, IMF Deputy Director African Department, in line with the conference on domestic revenue mobilization in Sub-Saharan Africa held in Nairobi 21-22 March 2011. "African countries that have had successes on this front demonstrate clearly the importance of stronger revenue performance for making in-roads into poverty reduction.

EU Corporate Transparency Financial Times

Mar 22 - As rising resource prices drive oil and mining company profits higher, Michel Barnier, the European Union’s internal market commissioner wants them to come clean about the full extent of their “financial relationships” with foreign governments.

The great tax heist is worse than we dared fear - 5.75% tax rate for big business Tax Research UK

Mar 23 - The new budget just announced in the UK brings in measures that mean large companies can shift large amounts of their profit offshore and pay just 5.75% on them. This is a massive tax cut for big business, and boost for tax havens.

See also:

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer shakes up corporate tax Financial Times
Mar 23 - In the budget, chancellor Osborne unveiled a package of changes for the corporate sector, in which he piled tax increases on to oil companies and banks while making an extra 1 percentage point cut in the main corporation tax rate.

and:

Budget 2011: £1bn tax avoidance crackdown dismissed as 'token gesture' The Guardian
Mar 23 - George Osborne has been accused of making "token gestures" in his attack on tax avoidance after the chancellor pledged in his budget speech that a crackdown would boost receipts by £1bn. A proper attack on tax avoidance would raise £20bn, say experts.

Spain's offshore interests Gibralter Chronicle

Mar 23 -A recent report by the Spanish observatory on Corporate Social Responsibility (Observatorio de Responsabilidad Social Corporativa) reveals that nearly all companies listed in the Spanish stock exchange operate through offshore centres. Hat tip Offshore Watch.

Swiss financial regulator says crisis not over swissinfo.ch

Mar 23 - The president of the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (Finma) is asked: "When dealing with money belonging to the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have Swiss banks respected due diligence concerning money laundering? And is the current system satisfactory?". The response: "It’s a bit too early to give the results of our enquiry. A dozen banks are involved, and we’re looking into whether they broke their obligations regarding diligence." A heartening comment, but can we expect to see anything in the way of real results? See our earlier blog Hypocrisy and High Corruption.

U.S. Congress should end "deferral" rather than adopt a "territorial tax system". Citizens for Tax Justice

Mar 23 -
Some corporate leaders are pushing Congress to adopt a "territorial" tax system, which would exempt the offshore profits of U.S. corporations. This new report from our friends at CTJ explains that Congress should move in the opposite direction and adopt a "pure worldwide" tax system, which taxes all profits of U.S. corporations the same while providing a credit to avoid double-taxation.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Links Mar 22

Press Release: Governments should name banks that took corrupt money from Gaddafi, Mubarak and Ben Ali Global Witness
Mar 20 - A clear message must be sent to banks that doing business with corrupt dictators is unacceptable: first, those banks holding dirty money should be publicly named and then regulators need to devise a new system which stops banks from taking suspect funds in the first place.


Press Release: IMF and Kenya Host Conference for Sub-Saharan Africa on Improving Tax Revenue Mobilization IMF
Mar 21 - The conference, beginning Mar 21, is hosted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Government of Kenya and brings together senior tax officials from over 40 African countries to help improve tax revenue mobilization across sub-Saharan Africa. The IMF"s Director of Fiscal Affairs Carlo Cottarelli said: "Effective revenue collection can unlock vital resources for African countries to tackle the root causes of poverty and promote their long term development in an equitable and transparent manner".

Google questioned by SEC over earnings in low-tax countries Bloomberg
Mar 21 - How Google cut its income taxes by $3.1 billion over three years by shifting the bulk of foreign profits to Ireland, then the Netherlands and eventually to no-tax Bermuda, according to regulatory filings in the U.S. and abroad.

See also:
Apple, Google may profit from a tax holiday Bloomberg Businessweek

Mar 18 - In the U.S., those companies and others say they'll bring home billions in earnings - but only if they get a big tax break.

See also earlier report:
How offshore tax havens save companies billions NPR
Mar 17 - Jesse Drucker, who has done some excellent reporting on how U.S. companies use tax havens to avoid billions, explains how it's done - as we blogged here.

Argentina suspends exporters Agriculture.com
Mar 21 - Argentina's tax agency on Monday broadened a crack-down on what it says is rampant tax evasion by multi-national grain exporters, suspending three more companies from a key grain trading registry. The companies have been evading taxes by triangulating their grain trading operations through other countries, among other measures.

Northern Ireland - more steps towards tax havenry Treasure Islands
Mar 19 - "The evidence just keeps mounting: the UK government is on the warpath on tax havens, and not in a good way. The aims seems to be to turn the UK into more of a tax haven ... Who is going to raise their voice against this stuff?"

And finally, they are moving ... TJN Germany Blog (In German)
Mar 21 - Potentially, some movements in a positive direction ... In Luxembourg, Prime Minister Juncker stated support for a Financial Transactions Tax within the Eurozone, contradicting the view of Finance Minister Frieden ...From Ireland, while there is still holdout against pressure to increase the corporate tax rate, there are indications that that the government may be willing to concede to EU on the proposed common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) in exchange for a reduction on interest rates on the bailout loans. See also: Government insists it will not yield on corporate tax rate Irish Times Mar 22.

Why is a powerful faux liberal UK think tank using recycled US Republican talking points to fight breaking up banks? naked capitalism

Mar 21 - "How frequent, how intense and how expensive are these crises to be, then? Are the tax receipts worth it? How does that fit in with the massive implicit taxpayer support?" Hat tip The Cynical Tendency.


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India - Jersey agreement falls through

'Tony, The Prof’ in Jersey has reported that the recent delegation to India of Jersey government ministers has failed in one of its key objectives: the signing of a tax information exchange agreement between India and the tiny tax haven in the English Channel. The signing did not take place, which must have been rather embarrassing for the two ministers concerned. Though it is not clear why Delhi shied away from signing, it is very possible that they considered the proposed agreement too weak and therefore of little use to them in their fight against rampant tax evasion.

The following from Tony, the Prof:

The JEP reported [last week] that “TREASURY Minister Philip Ozouf today declined to comment on why the signing of an historic tax agreement with India had been called off. The signing of this tax information exchange agreement was due to be the centrepiece of the current trade mission to Mumbai and Delhi, which has been months in the planning. Senator Ozouf was expected to put his signature to it today, alongside the Indian Minister of State from Revenue SS Shri Palanimanickam at the Ministry of Finance, in the capital of the sub-continent. However, the ceremony was called off and the document is having to be redrafted, apparently because Indian officials were not happy with what it said.” (1)

It is clear from press released before this occurred that this was to be one of the planned highlights of the trip to India. Indeed, it is described in one report as the “culmination” of the trip, which is why no doubt Senator Ozouf went off on this trip rather than the Economic Development Minister, Alan Maclean. After all, when he was Economic Development Minister, it was Senator Ozouf rather than the Treasury Minister Terry le Sueur who jetted off to the Far East:

A Jersey delegation consisting of States of Jersey Ministers, the Director-General of the Jersey Financial Services Commission and representatives of Jersey’s finance industry arrived in India on 13th March for a five day visit designed to highlight and promote the new Jersey Finance representation in Mumbai and Delhi and which willculminate in the signing of the TIEA on 18th March. The signing of the TIEA is an important step in facilitating business flows between Jersey and India and demonstrates Jersey’s commitment to operating within the highest international standards. The move will take the total number of similar agreements Jersey has signed to 21, including agreements with countries such as the USA, UK, France, Germany and China. (2)

Jersey finance is playing this down as a “delay”. Now I can’t see how “refuse to sign” gets turned into “delay”, but that’s the new message coming from Geoff Cook, which contradicts the earlier “culmination”, and puts the blame in the hands of back office officials. And didn’t it “take months in the planning”?

Jersey Finance, the body responsible for promoting Jersey’s finance industry, has said that the delay in signing a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with India will not have an impact on business flows between Jersey and India or planned future growth. Responding to news of the delayed signing, Jersey Finance CEO, Geoff Cook, said: “TIEA’s take a number of months to prepare and so it is understandable that on this occasion the formal signing could not be completed to coincide with our visit to India marking the introduction of permanent Jersey Finance representative in the country. We have every confidence that the agreement will soon be in place and when it is, the platform for growing business between Jersey and India will be strengthened further.”(3)

But there is a more obvious reason for this happening. India, according to the Economic Times of India, is looking for more teeth to the TIEAs. In 2010, this report was published:

New Delhi is expected to present a detailed paper on the issue at the forthcoming Seoul meeting, urging that domestic laws of countries must support such agreements for effective information exchange. “These agreements should ensure that there is actual flow of information and benefits for countries entering them (agreements) in checking evasion,” said a finance ministry official privy to the discussions. In some countries, for instance, domestic laws relating to privacy protection tend to come in the way of sharing information with other countries, defeating the very purpose of such pacts.(4)

And in February 19 2011 - this year, the same paper notes that:

NEW DELHI: India will seek strong action by the Group of Twenty (G20) nations against tax havens as it feels any unilateral action can act as a deterrent against foreign investment. “Multilateral action is more effective,” a finance ministry official said, ahead of the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Paris. India also wants improvement in the quality of information that is shared under TIEAs to make such agreements more meaningful. India will urge the G20 to pressure tax havens into revealing more information on black money from India, the official added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government is under pressure to bring back illicit funds stashed abroad, but finds itself facing jurisdictions with which it has little leverage. A report by Washington-based think-tank Global Financial Integrity (GFI) puts such fund flows at about $16 billion a year from 2002-2006. “Any form of curbs on a country cannot work at unilateral level, as such an action can discourage foreign investments,” the official said. India has already made a strong pitch for tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) with greater teeth at the G20 to facilitate a meaningful exchange of information on fund flows and monies parked in such jurisdictions.(5)

It is unclear exactly what this entails, but it is likely that it means more than signing to the standard clauses on TIEAs, which guard against any fishing expeditions. Interesting the recently signed agreement between India and the Bahamas has all the usual stuff, about needing the name of the individual, and what is being investigated, but also has this interesting Article 6 on Tax Examinations abroad, which might be the point at issue in the drafting and approval of the Jersey TIEA. It certainly seems to have more bite than just requests for information:

Article 6: Tax Examinations Abroad

1. At the request of the competent authority of the requesting Party, the requested Party may allow representatives of the competent authority of the requesting Party to enter the territory of the requested Party, to the extent permitted under its domestic laws, to interview individuals and examine records with the prior written consent of the individuals or other persons concerned. The competent authority of the requesting Party
shall notify the competent authority of the requested Party of the time and place of the intended meeting with the individuals concerned.

2. At the request of the competent authority of the requesting Party, the requested Party may allow representatives of the competent authority of the requesting Party to be present at the appropriate part of a tax examination in the requested Party, in which case the competent authority of the requested Party conducting the examination shall, as soon as possible, notify the competent authority of the requesting Party about the time and place of the examination, the authority or official designated to carry out the examination and the procedures and conditions required by the requested Party for the conduct of the examination. All decisions with respect to the conduct of the tax examination shall be made by the Party conducting the examination. [6]

Links
(1) http://www.thisisjersey.com/2011/03/18/indian-officials-refuse-to-sign-tax-agreement/#ixzz1HAlW5Qqc
(2) http://www.ameinfo.com/259611.html
(3) http://www.jerseyfinance.je/News/Delay-to-TIEA-signing-with-India-will-not-affect-business-opportunities-say-Jersey-Finance/
(4) http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/India-likely-to-pitch-for-deeper-tax-information-exchange-at-G-20-meet/articleshow/6136834.cms
(5) http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/7525591.cms?prtpage=1
(6) http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/bahamasweb2/home.nsf/vContentW/MOF–Tax+Information+Exchange+Agreements–TIEA+attachments/$FILE/India%20Bahamas%20TIEA%2011%20February%202011.pdf

Reproduced with permission

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