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Oct
30

Not an end to secrecy, but a first step in the right direction

Christian Freymeyer

5761956488_abc5734fc7_zA multitude of officials are heralding a new cross-border tax information exchange crafted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the end of tax evasion as we know it. Unfortunately, the truth may be a bit more ambiguous.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance head, stated unequivocally that “banking secrecy in its old form has had its day.” Others, from George Osborne of the United Kingdom to Michel Sapinof France echoed similar praises.

While the reforms, which were discussed at a Berlin conference this week, are a big step in the direction of real financial transparency, the Tax Justice Network, a member of the FTC, has released a new report detailing their concerns with the plan, and why it’s vital that we continue to push for stronger and more inclusive measures.

Press Releases
Oct
30

GFI Notes Significant Progress on Automatic Information Exchange but Warns that Poorest Countries Are Being Shunned

Global Financial Integrity

WASHINGTON, DC – While noting significant progress today in the global effort to curb tax evasion, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) expressed concerns that the OECD/G20 movement toward automatic exchange of financial information was excluding the world’s poorest countries from reaping any benefits while failing to deal with the issue of illicit financial flows in comprehensive manor.

89 countries committed Wednesday to implement automatic exchange of financial information between jurisdictions by the end of 2017 or 2018 at the annual meeting of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes in Berlin.

Oct
29

Feeding The 1%: new report exposes the disturbing world of agricultural investors, financial secrecy and land grabs

Naomi Fowler

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The G8 and World Bank argue that the recent huge wave of private sector investment in agriculture increases innovation, jobs and food output.

But is this correct?

Forensic new research from influential campaign group, GRAIN suggests the opposite is true.

GRAIN’s report, Feeding the 1 percent, produces evidence which indicates the avalanche of investment after the 2008 global food crisis is predatory and that investors have “little or no background in agriculture”.

Oct
21

Money Laundering: Too Important To Leave To The Experts Alone

Max Heywood

Starting tomorrow a group of government officials and experts belonging to the world’s leading anti-money laundering organisation – the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – will be meeting in Paris. On the agenda is the adoption of a document on an issue that has major implications for the fight against crime, corruption and tax evasion around the world.

It’s a shame nobody outside of this small circle of experts from governments and international organisations has had a chance to see the document before it comes out.

According to the FATF website, at its upcoming plenary meeting the organisation will adopt guidance on beneficial ownership and company transparency.

Beneficial ownership is the term used to describe who actually benefits from the assets and profits of a company. At the moment many countries allow the formation of shell companies with proxy directors which obscure the real (beneficial) owner. When people are allowed to hide their identity behind a shell company in this way, there is a risk of this advantage being used to hide illicit money.

Oct
17

EU Savings Tax Directive to be repealed?

Nicholas Shaxson

The EU Savings Tax Directive (EUSTD) has been the EU’s flagship transparency initiative since its introduction in 2003, and we have written about it on many occasions. It complements another EU transparency scheme called the Directive on Administrative Co-operation, which was beefed up this week, as the Wall St. Journal reported:

“European Union finance ministers agreed Tuesday on a far-reaching crackdown on tax evasion that will bring the bloc’s standards on par with global rules by 2017, although Austria is getting an extra year to build up a data-exchange system with its banks.”

The DAC currently covers only EU Member states, while the EUSTD is extended by agreement to cover also a range of third countries in the EU’s orbit, including Switzerland and a bunch of British (and Dutch) tax havens. Both are systems ofautomatic information exchange (AIE), the new global financial transparency standard which TJN has been fighting for for years but only came into vogue in the past couple of years. The DAC was being beefed up to accommodate the new global Common Reporting Standards (CRS) led by the OECD. The CRS is another AIE system, which we have described as a vast improvement on a bad situation – but it still has various holes.

Oct
13

On the Eve of the Annual Conference

Christian Freymeyer

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We’ve arrived at the eve of the our annual conference, co-hosted this year in Lima, Peru by FTC member Latin American Network on Debt, Development, and Rights (LATINDAD). While the main conference begins tomorrow, journalists, civil society leaders and researchers are already hard at work. The week began today with a journalist training that included presentations from renowned investigative journalists like Hernán CapielloÁngel Páez, and former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson. The training brought together more than 15 journalists from 10 different countries in Latin America to discuss how investigative journalism can be a tool for uncovering illicit financial flows. Alongside the journalist training, members of civil society gathered to discuss illicit flows, corruption, and financial transparency.

As today’s sessions have come to a close, we’re looking forward to the launch of the conference tomorrow. You can view the full agenda for the event here. If you’re unable to join us in Lima, you don’t have to be left out. Follow along and add to the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #FTC2014Lima and by following @FinTrCo.

Oct
9

Countdown to Lima Conference: Transforming the post-2015 momentum into an enduring fiscal justice movement

Financial Transparency Coalition

Experts, advocates, government officials and journalists from all regions of the globe will be gathering next week in Lima, Peru to scale-up strategic efforts to curb illicit financial flows in ways which ensure sufficient, equitable and accountable financing of sustainable development.

The timing couldn’t be more auspicious. As governments move into the final stages of negotiating a set of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals after their expiration date next year, this post-2015 momentum represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the contours of national government priorities, policies and financing decisions in areas from education to ecology, housing to health, climate change to care work. Beyond national commitments, the post-2015 process is also an important strategic opportunity to secure global commitments on tax cooperation in a truly multilateral institution whose reason of being and higher-order imperative—unlike other bodies like the G20—is to promote human rights in development.

Oct
8

Publishing tax breaks and subsidies for corporations – a good idea whose time has come

Nicholas Shaxson

The indefatigable US-based organisation Good Jobs Firsthas sent a fascinating email, which relates to the United States but could have general relevance for other countries. This one is located at the fascinating, busy intersection between tax and transparency.

Oct
8

Countdown to Lima Conference: Tackling some of the biggest problems in the Americas

Max Heywood

There is just a week to go before the start of the Hidden Money, Hidden Resources conference in Lima, organized by the Financial Transparency Coalition and Latindadd, and the agenda covers a number of topics which are highly relevant to the Americas.

The panel I´ve been invited to moderate, for example, will be exploring the links between citizen security, organized crime, corruption and money-laundering. Latin America and the Caribbean as a region has the highest levels of citizen insecurity in the world, and is the only region where criminal violence increased between 2000 and 2010 according to UNDP.

Oct
8

56 reasons why anonymous company ownership is the biggest problem you’ve never heard of

Rosie Sharpe

Anonymous company ownership doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue does it?  Nor is it a phrase that many people have heard of.  But it should be.  Anonymous company ownership is behind much of what is bad in the world.

It’s behind the fraudsters who cheat vulnerable people like the young, the old and the sick out of the resources they need to get by in life.  It’s behind the tax dodgers who don’t pay their fair share towards society.  It’s behind the dishonest public officials who use their positions for personal gain, and the corrupt multinationals that bribe their way into a lucrative contract.  It’s behind the people traffickers who condemn people to lives of modern-day slavery.  It’s even behind the terrorists, drug cartels and mobsters who run criminal enterprises.

Oct
7

PWC report endorses country by country reporting for banks

Nicholas Shaxson

9144964712_3a080060a2_zFrom Euractiv, a statement that would have been unthinkable even just a couple of years ago:

“Publishing turnover, staff numbers, taxes paid and subsidies received in every country banks operate in, could boost competitiveness, increase lending and bolster financial stability, the independent study by auditors PwC will find. It will fight tax evasion and not harm investment or result in excessive compliance costs for banks, the report will say once published.”

This research, carried out for the European Commission as due diligence for the fourth revision of the EU Capital Requirements Directive, is highly welcome, and it comes in the context of a statement by PwC’s chairman, summarised by the FT:

“The chairman of the world’s largest tax practice says tax advice has a moral dimension to it that professional services firms must keep in mind when advising clients.”

Oct
2

London Can’t Afford To Turn a Blind Eye To Corrupt Money

Transparency International

 

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This piece is cross-posted from the blog of Transparency International

Boris Johnson’s call for new homes in London to be sold first to Londoners, “not to oligarchs”, made headlines this week.

The Mayor of London making this demand at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham highlights a growing acknowledgement that a vast number of properties in the city are being used as safe investments by the world’s mega-wealthy.  In fact, foreign buyers bought up to 75% of new homes in central London over the past year, and foreign buyers reportedly accounted for 49% of all properties above £1m. £7bn of foreign investment was spent on high-end London homes in 2013.

But what Johnson must consider when addressing the overheated top-end of London’s property market is the ease with which an overseas buyer can invest in a London property using stolen assets – the proceeds of corruption.

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