15 June 2009


As part of their response to the global financial crisis, leaders of the G20 group of nations, representing the world’s twenty largest economies, agreed to impose sanctions against countries providing tax havens that fail to sign up to new anti-secrecy agreements.

The statement issued at the April meeting was accompanied by a ‘shame’ list of countries that had failed to fully implement the internationally agreed tax standard adopted by the G20 finance ministers in 2004.

The proposed crackdown has been welcomed as a positive step by commentators and organizations campaigning to end global poverty.

The Tax Justice Network estimates that wealthy individuals alone held US$ 11.5 trillion offshore in 2005, resulting in lost taxes of perhaps $255bn a year. This is five times what the World Bank estimated in 2002 was needed to address the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015. This much money could also pay to transform the world’s energy infrastructure to tackle climate change.

An analysis conducted for Oxfam has found that at least $6.2 trillion of developing country wealth is held offshore by individuals, depriving developing countries of annual tax receipts of between $64-124bn. If money moved offshore by private companies were included this figure would be much higher. The scale of the losses could outweigh the $103bn developing countries receive annually in overseas aid.

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