Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Links - March 18

** Also see our searchable archive of past story summaries; and Offshore Watch. **

Barclays tax dodge ‘nets £1bn a year ’
March 15 (Sunday Times) - The whistle-blower argues that HMRC has been unable to keep pace with the team, which has “huge resources” and pays the best tax minds large bonuses. “Negotiations with the Revenue . . . only ever resulted in wide grins and much back-slapping within SCM at the ease with which would always roll over and beg rather than bite,” he said.

Barclays gags Guardian over tax
Injunction forces news website to remove seven leaked memos showing how bank avoided hundreds of millions of pounds in tax. The Guardian has removed them. However, you can still access the files here.

Revenue investigates Barclays tax mole claims
March 16 (Guardian) - HM Revenue & Customs was tonight investigating explosive allegations about tax avoidance schemes operated by Barclays Bank, made by a whistleblower in the firm and apparently substantiated by leaked documents.

Barclays – what to do about it
Richard Murphy looks at some ways to deal with banking tax abuse. Part 1, (overview, some principles) - Part 2 (Code of Conduct), Part 3 (interpreting the law), Part 4 (general anti-avoidance principle.)

RBS avoided £500m of tax in global deals
March 13 (Guardian) - Royal Bank of Scotland tied up at least £25bn in complex international tax-avoidance schemes during its boom years, costing the British and US treasuries more than £500m in lost revenue, the Guardian can disclose. Richard Murphy peeks at the accounts here.

John Christensen, combattant infiltré dans les paradis fiscaux
A profile of TJN’s director John Christensen in Libération newspaper.

Non-governmental Groups In Jersey Protest At Tax Havens
March 13 (AFP)--Dozens of non-governmental organizations Friday joined a protest against tax havens outside international banks on Jersey in the Channel Islands. "We are here in Jersey not because we want to draw a picture of Jersey itself, we want to draw your attention to the major problems in the entire financial system," said John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network.

U.S. Senate's Baucus targets offshore tax evaders
March 12 (Reuters) - Another bill to crack down on offshore tax evasion is being developed in the U.S. Congress. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said on Thursday he is seeking input from other lawmakers on a preliminary draft of a bill calling for higher levels of Internal Revenue Service oversight of offshore tax issues. Sen. Max Baucus said his bill would also require that tax preparers ask more questions about foreign accounts, that certain reports be filed with tax returns, and that penalties for violations be raised.

I’m hoping this isn’t true
March 15 (Tax Research) - Reuters has reported: Switzerland has won the backing of G20 chairman Britain for its efforts to stay off an international blacklist of uncooperative tax havens, the finance ministry said on Saturday. It would be incredible if this story were true.

Tax havens: bilateral deals will not do
March 14 (Tax Research) – The UK Prime Minister’s office has published a press release after this morning’s meeting with Chancellor Merkel of Germany. “Old tax havens have no place in this new world” and called upon all countries to share tax information with one another.” But it’s not good enough. They called for an extension of bilateral information exchange processes inherent in the OECD tax information exchange agreements. These things are near to useless. Richard Murphy explains why. Also see here on TIEAS.

Europe - Liechtenstein eases bank secrecy rules - .
March 12 (FT) - “Liechtenstein will go not so far as to abolish bank secrecy. But the principality will co-operate more fully with foreign tax authorities and will end the confusing distinction, also retained by Switzerland, between tax evasion, a civil offence, and tax fraud, a crime.”

The less you contribute to OECD budget the more influence you have on the policies
March 18 (Ethiques des places) - The Tagesanzeiger newspaper has reported that OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría provided a new list, on which financial centres with banking secrecy, such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria, are optically separate from the tax havens. The blog provides a new list.

Swiss warn lifting secrecy ‘will take time’
March 16 (FT) - Switzerland has warned countries against expecting swift results from its decision last week to water down bank secrecy laws, saying it could take years for the necessary legislation to come into action. Hans-Rudolf Merz, finance minister, said renegotiating the country’s more than 70 double taxation treaties “won’t be so fast” as each must be approved individually by the country’s parliament.

International deals on sharing tax data could take years to complete
IHT (March 15) - Monaco succumbed to international pressure during the weekend, becoming the latest country to adopt O.E.C.D. standards for banking openness and information-sharing, but the United States and its main European allies in battling tax evaders faced what could be years of negotiation before they are able to proclaim victory.

Steinbrueck Says Swiss Announcement on Bank Secrecy Not Enough
March 15 (Bloomberg) -- German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said pledges by countries including Switzerland to expand cooperation in tax cases are not enough and must be followed by action.

IRS giving tax relief to some Madoff investors
March 18 (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service issued guidelines Tuesday that will allow tax relief and refunds for some Bernard Madoff victims who were levied for investment earnings that turned out to be nonexistent. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress the new guidelines are for taxpayers who have suffered losses from Ponzi investment schemes such as the massive Madoff swindle.

Tax Me If You Can
March 14 (WSJ) - The movie industry, which is pleading in state capitals across the country for most-favored-tax status. Hollywood productions are highly mobile and can film just about anywhere. So they have taken to shopping around the country -- and the world -- for the most lucrative tax avoidance deal.

Luxembourg Conforms To OECD Guidelines,
March 18 ( - Luxembourg’s Budget and Treasury Minister Luc Frieden announced on March 13 that Luxembourg intends to conclude OECD-convention double tax treaties with OECD member states, thereby providing for the exchange of information in cases where there is solid evidence of the perpetration of a tax crime.

Q+A-Tax havens' moves to avoid blacklist
March 13 (Reuters) - Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg all sought ways on Friday to fend off a global crackdown on tax evasion by making concessions on bank secrecy. Here are questions and answers on their moves and how they compare to demands by other governments.

Hong Kong, Singapore Face Scrutiny on Tax Policies
March 13 (WSJ) - Both have had simmering tensions with major trading partners on the issue of personal financial disclosure, particularly in the realm of private banking. Singapore has about $300 billion under management.

Senate Finance chairman has 'all but rejected' Levin's anti tax haven bill
March 13 (Royal Gazette) - Robert Bauman, editor of The Sovereign Society Offshore A-Letter, said that chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus) had all but rejected Senator Carl Levin's radical anti-tax haven legislation.

Liechtenstein's LGT exits trust business
March 10 (AP) - Stung by accusations that it helped rich foreigners engage in tax evasion, Liechtenstein's LGT Group said Tuesday it is exiting the trust and fiduciary businesses for good.

Liechtenstein's VP Bank reports net outflows
Mar 10 (Reuters) - Liechtenstein's VP Bank said it had net outflows of 1.3 billion Swiss francs ($1.13 billion) and that 2009 would be another difficult year as it predicted more pressure on the country's banking secrecy.

Britain Signs Tax Information Sharing Accord With Jersey
March 10 (Bloomberg) - March 10 (Bloomberg) -- The island of Jersey bowed to political pressure and agreed to share information with the British government on individuals seeking to evade tax, becoming the last U.K. offshore tax haven to offer greater disclosure.

OECD Prepares Tax-Disclosure List for G-20 Meeting (Update1)
March 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said it has prepared a list of countries that it says don’t fully meet its standards of information disclosure on tax matters, including Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland.


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