Terrorists, drug traffickers, corrupt politicians and criminals easily move money around the globe every single day. They use shell corporations, which have no assets or operations and exist simply to conduct business transactions. Shell corporations serve no legitimate business purpose other than to hide their true owners and officers. They enable brutal dictators in Equatorial Guinea and Uzbekistan; terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah; and drug lords to hide their profits from crime and corruption.
Money launderers, corrupt politicians, terrorists, arms traffickers, drug smugglers, and tax evaders all rely on two things to move their dirty money: company structures that allow them to hide their identity, and banks and other professionals willing to do business with them. Both are all-too available.
This Global Witness briefing explains the problem of hidden company ownership, the ease with which the corrupt can set up anonymous companies and trusts, and how this is a major barrier in the fight against poverty. With this issue quickly rising up the political agenda, this briefing also explains what can be done to combat this problem.
Tax evasion poses an acute challenge to developing and developed countries. From 2000 to 2010, illicit financial flows deprived developing countries of US$5.86 trillion. Tax evasion is not a victimless crime – for people in the developing world, the consequences of tax evasion can be a matter of life and death. If developing countries could recover this untaxed wealth, it could mobilise enormous resources for improving their public services and their citizens’ lives.
Today’s international tax rules, which were drawn up nearly a century ago, have not kept pace with the massive changes in the world economy.
This manual helps interested parties to understand and address corruption risks associated with forest carbon accounting – particularly REDD+ – programmes and strategies at the national level. Users will learn how to identify corruption risks and instruments to help address these risks within the development of national Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) action plans and strategies, and the implementation of REDD+ and other forest carbon projects.
The manual’s scope does not extend to corruption risks at the international level. Rather it is deliberately focused on processes that occur in country, to facilitate the participation of national and local groups in informing national policy, planning and project implementation. This tool is principally designed for civil society actors who may work with other NGOs, governments and the private sector to help design systems that are transparent, accountable, responsive and thus effective. It will help inform and guide forest carbon risk assessments, but should be adapted by users to fit their country contexts.
To get to the bottom of corruption, Transparency International analyses a range of critical societal institutions (such as the business, media or political parties) and assesses their ability to prevent corruption. This ‘national integrity system’ assessment has been carried out in more than 70 countries worldwide, with 25 of the studies recently completed or being finalised across Europe.
The Greece report finds that several “pillars” of the Greek anti‐corruption system have fundamental flaws, the most significant of which is a crisis of values, typified by broad scale acceptance of and participation in corruption.
Using consistently credible sources the resulting estimate of tax evasion in the European Union is approximately €860 billion a year. As the report notes, estimating tax avoidance, which is the other key component of the tax gap in Europe, is harder. However, an estimate that it might be €150 billion a year is made in this report. In combination it is therefore likely that tax evasion and tax avoidance might cost the governments of the European Union member states €1 trillion a year. These losses can only be accurately located with regard to tax evasion. Italy loses the most in Europe as a result of tax evasion. Its loss exceeds €180 billion a year. Estonia is, however, the biggest loser when the tax lost is expressed as a proportion of government spending. More than 28% of Estonia’s government spending is lost to tax evasion each year.
In August 2009, France and Switzerland amended their tax treaty. The new treaty stated that the two countries would from now on exchange upon request all information necessary for tax enforcement, including bank information otherwise protected by Swiss bank secrecy laws. In the following months, one of France’s richest persons and her wealth manager were taped discussing what to do with two undeclared Swiss bank accounts, worth $160 millions. After a visit to Switzerland, the wealth manager concluded that keeping the funds in Swiss banks or bringing them back to France would be too risky. He suggested that the funds be transferred to Hong-Kong, Singapore, or Uruguay, three tax havens which had not committed to exchange information with France. After the tapes were made public, they were widely commented in French newspapers and eventually the funds were repatriated to France.
Looking at 2012, experts from the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) and colleagues from think tanks based in the region have come together to produce this year’s issue of Foresight Africa, where they outline the top priorities for the continent for 2012 and beyond. AGI scholars assess what they see as the major challenges for Africa in the coming year and provide policy recommendations on how to manage these challenges and leverage opportunities to catalyze and reignite growth in 2012. Similarly, AGI and its partner think tanks identify country-specific challenges in Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and Kenya.
In a study conducted between November 2010 and February 2011 on ill-gotten money and the economy, the Financial Integrity team looked at the experiences of Malawi and Namibia. We approached the project with an open mind and without any assumptions, finding that for Malawi, corruption and tax evasion as a percentage of GDP represent a significant drag on economic development.
In this report, we first estimate the absolute size of a country’s shadow economy based on its own published estimate of its GDP and recently-reported data on the size of shadow economies published by the world bank. This, and other data we use, is what we think the best currently available for the purpose of this report and, as such, should provide the best estimates possible.
By the definition used here, economic activity in the shadow economy of a country will be tax-evading. So we next calculate an estimate of the amount of tax lost as a result of the existence of that shadow economy. We do this by looking at how much taxes are on average in the state as a share of GDP, and then apply the same tax share to the shadow economy, to reveal our estimates of lost taxes by state. We then compare these lost taxes to health care spending in each country surveyed. This data has also been compared by continent.
The international community has repeatedly stressed the need to mobilise domestic resources in developing countries, as the most sustainable way of financing development and ending aid dependency. Yet, many developing countries are affected by a number of challenges that limit their capacity to collect taxes. One such challenge is multinational companies’ lack of accountability regarding their operations and more specifically regarding the taxes they pay. This report explains how the cross border nature of multinational companies’ operations combined with the absence of adequate transparency regulations have very damaging implications for a country’s ability to mobilise domestic resources. Although this is relevant for both developed and developing countries, the report focuses on the impacts for developing countries, which have weaker capacities to face this challenge.