Today is the 10th anniversary of Euro as the zone’s single currency. On February 28th, 2002, all of the various currencies from Eurozone countries, which had been linked with fixed exchange rates to each other and the Euro for a trial period, ceased to be legal tender between member states. A decade later, the survival of the single currency seems to be in question thanks to the events inside Greece, Italy, and elsewhere.
There are many reasons why the Eurozone is facing crisis. Here at the Task Force, we find it important to focus on one major component: tax evasion. Sovereign debt is far from the only factor in the crisis, but it is a major one. The Task Force’s Richard Murphy made this point back in November. Murphy wrote,
We wouldn’t have a world economic crisis now if we hadn’t had tax evasion. The current crisis focuses on the Euro. Italy is at its epicentre. It has external debt of €1.9 trillion. If only it had suffered the UK’s rate of evasion in the last decade then its deficit would be less than half that sum now. The same would also be true for Greece, and only slight less so for Spain. In other words, if tax evasion in these countries had been taken seriously and been tackled in these countries we would not have a Euro crisis today. That’s how important tax evasion is.
The UK does not have some kind of magically low rate of tax evasion. Murphy puts the UK’s shadow economy at 12.5% of GDP, much higher than the US rate of 8.6%. Greece and Italy both sit at 27%.
Every other week, the Task Force highlights a Featured Allied Organization. The Task Force has more than 120 member organizations from all over the world which endorse its mission. The current featured Allied Organization is The Council on Geopolitics. To learn more about the Task Force Allied Organizations and to see a full list of our members please visit the Allied Organization webpage.
SHERPA is a non-profit organization that aims to protect and defend the victims of economic crimes in developing countries. SHERPA’s overall focus is deploying legal expertise to fight the injustices caused by economic crimes and to bring about effective changes to public policy and legal frameworks in order to ensure fair and sustainable development for citizens in developing countries. SHERPA brings together legal experts and lawyers convinced that law has a key role to play in ensuring fair and sustainable development for citizens in developing countries.
The organization was founded in 2001 by the renowned French human rights lawyer William Bourdon. His concern was that globalization was creating new forms of impunity which civil society did not have adequate tools or resources to combat. In fact, while perpetrators of the most serious international crimes (i.e. war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide) could finally be held accountable thanks to the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), there was (and still are) no similar forms of redress available to remedy human rights violations and other serious environmental and social impacts arising from the relentless pursuit of profit within the context of financial and economic globalization. SHERPA was created with the specific intention of addressing these economic crimes.
SHERPA was recently featured in the investigative documentary “Filthy Rich.” More information on the documentary can be found here here, along with a related article about SHERPA. To learn more about SHERPA please visit their website.
From my Escape from Europe blog, posted on Feb 23
Switzerland’s so-called “Rubik” tax deals with Germany and the United Kingdom are effectively defunct, following robust challenges from the European Commission recently which require the deals to be watered down so drastically that they will be functionally almost useless.
The project isn’t dead yet, however, and even in its near-lifeless current state Rubik remains a zombie-like threat to European efforts to promote financial transparency and to the ability of European states to raise tax revenues from their wealthiest citizens.
Europolitics on February 17th revealed a new blockage to the European transparency arrangements. In essence, a long-awaited European push for greater transparency, through expansion of the current EU Savings Tax Directive, was taken off the agenda at the last minute, despite the efforts of EU chair Denmark to it push forwards. The new blockage came from a surprising quarter: not the tax havens of Austria and Luxembourg, but Germany, previously, an enthusiastic supporter of European transparency arrangements.
CNBC aired its new documentary, “Filthy Rich“, for the first time last night. The documentary was the product of a year-long investigation, and featured Task Force Coordinating Committee members Global Witness and Transparency International and Task Force Allied Organization SHERPA. The hour-long special focused on the massive wealth accumulated by kleptocrats like the Obiang ruling family of Equatorial Guinea and the Aliyev ruling family of Azerbaijan and how the United States enables their corruption. Video clip below:
I highly recommend watching the whole documentary. It will re-air this Sunday night at 10 pm EST on CNBC. The Task Force will stay on top of any airings, and send out reminders via Twitter and Facebook whenever the documentary will be on. Sign up to follow-up for further updates.
Reuters has reported:
“Under a ‘clean money’ strategy, which Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf is expected to present to the cabinet on Wednesday, banks will be obliged to get foreign clients to declare they are compliant with their home tax regimes.”
(See a new publication on the Swiss financial centre strategy. So far, only the release is available in English.)
Let’s be clear about what this is likely to mean in practice.
Some clients of Swiss banks have money parked there legitimately, with all relevant assets and income declared to their home authorities as appropriate. But lots of them have stashed their cash there to evade tax (and to do other nefarious things). So as regards the ‘clean money’ strategy, the relevant people are those who have already taken the formidable step of lying to their home tax authorities. This measure merely gets them to lie again – but this time, only to Swiss banks. Lying this time will be far easier: the Swiss banks, unlike their home tax authorities, have no incentive to police these ‘declarations’, and there will be no penalties (apart from being subjected to potentially irritating nudging and winking from the bankers).
This measure could perhaps make a very small difference, at the margins, but won’t put the Swiss banks out of pocket much. By contrast, it hands the banks a major coup: business as usual, covered by a charade that allows them to say ‘look how clean we are!’
In The President’s Framework for Business Tax Reform, which the White House released earlier this week, President Obama advocates lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28 percent. This move is not surprising. Last month, President Obama brought up a basic minimum corporate tax in his State of the Union address.
But the tax cut is not alone. Alongside this cut, Obama advocates cutting corporate tax loopholes. This element is not to be overlooked. There are far too many corporate tax loopholes—which are deductions, credits, and other tax expenditures that benefit certain activities—and they often result in very different marginal tax rates for companies in different industries. They even sometimes result in for different companies in the same industry. It is these loopholes which allow corporations to pay an average rate of 12%, even though the statutory rate is 35%. It is these loopholes that allowed the 100 largest U.S. multinational corporations to pay about $16 billion of U.S. tax on approximately $700 billion of foreign active earnings in 2004 – an effective tax rate of about 2.3%. We must close these loopholes to align the effective corporate tax rate with the official rate.
In fact Senators Carl Levin and Kent Conrad have already introduced a bill, to accomplish just what this. The bill, called Cut Unjustified Tax Loopholes Act or CUT Loopholes, would slice loopholes and, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Office of Management and Budget, would reduce the deficit by at least $155 billion over the next decade.
Karen Egger of The Task Force’s Transparency International wrote the following to The Financial Times in a letter to the editor:
Sir, The position expressed by the large oil companies (“Shell joins push to dilute EU’s proposed anti-corruption rules”, February 20) that disclosing information on a country-by-country basis of their operations will not “help combat corruption” is counter-intuitive at best and misrepresentative at worst. Citizens, investors and civil society, especially those in developing countries, must have relevant information in order to determine the full extent of the activities of these companies. Multinational businesses generate revenues and profits in resource-rich countries and so should contribute to the public coffers through royalties, taxation and the like. In the absence of country-by-country reporting by companies or disclosure of this information by countries, it is impossible to know how much profit is generated and what, if any, special arrangements governments may have entered into.
Full letter available here. She goes on to both underline the importance of transparency for developing countries and repeat the business case made by investors for country-by-country reporting in regards to good financial decision-making.
In TJN’s February edition of Taxcast, rounding up tax justice news for February: Are City of London Police really serious about prosecuting financial crimes? Are bankers paying fair taxes on their bonuses? And how Facebook is saving billions in tax via Ireland and Bermuda. Audio below:
What’s the Taxcast?
Taxcast is an entertaining and informative 15 minute monthly podcast with the latest news, research and analysis of events in tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system.
It’s good to see the Guardian report this morning that:
The former boss of Greggs, who built the bakery business into one of the UK’s most successful high street chains, has become the first senior executive to break ranks with his peers and attack the level of boardroom pay in corporate Britain.
Sir Mike Darrington, who led Greggs for 25 years before his retirement in 2008, said: “The quantum of executive pay is excessive and must be reduced … if the current packages were halved, senior executives and bankers would still be overpaid.”
In particular Darrington, 69, is keen to scotch the myth that attacks on executive rewards are attacks on business. “It is a smokescreen and a lot of bollocks – it is the greed of the people [at the top] that is anti-business.” He has labelled his campaign “pro-business and anti-greed”.
Precisely so. That “pro-business and anti-greed” line is right.
Just as it’s right to say that demanding that all companies meet the regulatory demands imposed upon them is “pro-business and anti-free-riding”.
And demanding that HMRC chase the 700,000 companies a year who do not submit corporation tax returns is “pro-honest business and anti-fraud”.
Coming Home to Corruption
100 Reporters, February 22, 2012
‘Pervasive’ Corruption, ‘Resilient’ Taliban Complicate Afghan War: Intel officials paint bleak Afghanistan picture
U.S. News and World Report, February 21, 2012
Afghanistan Targets Flight of Cash
The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2012
Third Ministerial of the Paris Pact Initiative
U.S. State Department (Remarks), February 16, 2012
Justice Withdraws Foreign Bribery Charges
The Wall Street Journal (blog), February 22, 2012
Krishen Mehta, co-chair of Global Financial Integrity, wrote an Op-Ed in the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. He addressed how illicit financial flows are a root structural cause of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States, and how Mexico and the U.S. can work to solve it. The Op-Ed reads:
Solutions to root causes of the huge levels of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States deserve more attention. One cause of people leaving developing countries like Mexico is the outflow of financial resources from illicit activities. Stop this flow of capital, and countries would have the resources to create jobs and opportunity at home and stem the flow of people over our borders.
Tto do this, we must change our laws, which today make it far too easy for people from other countries to hide their ill-gotten gains here in America.
A report just released by Global Financial Integrity, a think tank based in Washington, estimated that Mexico lost a massive $872 billion in illicit financial outflows from 1970 to 2010. The report also found that banks in the United States were the top destination for Mexican funds. In this way, our own banks are helping push ordinary Mexicans to come to the United States, often illegally, to overcome the domestic problems created by this kind of massive capital outflow.
Read the rest of the Op-Ed at the Dallas Morning news.
Cross-posted with permission from Transparency International.
A newly discovered diamond field in Cameroon might contain as many as 250 million carats – 2.5 times the total world output of diamonds in 2007. The nearby village of Mparo, meanwhile, lacks running water, asphalt roads or telephones. Its mud-brick schools lack benches or books, No electricity flows through its power lines. An electrification project started last year lies dormant amid accusations of stolen funds.
The villagers have been promised 10 per cent of the taxes mine production, which should be enough to change their lives. But exactly what those proceeds will be is unclear as the South Korean company that won the mining contract does not have to disclose any information about its operations in Cameroon. Worse, the company is mired in corruption allegations amid claims that the reserve figures for the mine were artificially inflated to manipulate the share price,
If multinational companies were required to disclose the details of their payments to governments around the world, the citizens of Mparo would know just how much of this they are entitled to. When EU ministers meet today, they have the chance to do just that, shaping legislation that could transform the oil, gas, mining and forestry industries, as well as the lives of millions around the globe. Some extractive companies, however, do not want to disclose details of individual projects like a single diamond mine.
September 8, 2014·
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil / WASHINGTON, DC – More than US$400 billion flowed illegally out of Brazil between 1960 and 2012— draining domestic ...
August 20, 2014·
WASHINGTON, DC – As New York regulators announced that British bank Standard Chartered ...
August 7, 2014·
WASHINGTON, DC – Global Financial Integrity (GFI) welcomed the announcement from the White House and African leaders today regarding the establishment of a ...