11 November 2011


Despite the focus on addressing the European debt crisis, the G20 recent meeting in Cannes resulted in some significant movement to address the issues of tax havens and to introduce a tax on financial transactions as a means of addressing the issues of poverty and climate change.

Momentum in favour of introducing the tax continues to build with South Africa, Argentina and Brazil joining with France, Germany and Spain to back the so-called 'Robin Hood Tax'. Bill Gates also presented a report to the meeting arguing that the tax is both feasible and desirable while repudiating the idea that the tax needs to be global in order to work.

Significant international pressure from an increasing number of policy makers is also steadily mounting against the secrecy offered by tax havens, says UK-based international development agency Christian Aid, following the G20 meeting.

The conference listed 11 tax havens that have failed to deliver on tax transparency, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy stating that the worst offenders 'will be excluded from the international community'.

Other significant developments arising from the summit included:-
• Every G20 member agreeing to sign a multilateral convention that will allow exchange of tax information between them – and will consider making information available automatically on a voluntary basis,
• A call from the G20 for multinational companies to be more compliant and transparent in their dealings with poor countries.
• Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning that tax evasion and illicit finance flows have become a ‘serious’ problem and urging the G20 to take a lead on automatic information exchange.
• The G20 agreeing to increase support to developing countries to counter ‘abusive transfer pricing ‘- a major profit-shifting tax dodge.
• A report from Bill Gates calling on all G20 countries to impose legally binding transparency requirements on mining and oil companies. Requiring companies to make public details of agreements they have with governments of the countries where they operate makes it easier to spot irregular payments.

"We are delighted that the G20 has listened to the concerns of 40,000 people across the world calling for an End to Tax Haven Secrecy – but we need sustained follow-up action to ensure this becomes a reality" said Christian Aid senior economic justice adviser Dr David McNair.

"We estimate that developing countries lose around $160 billion a year because of tax dodging by multinationals and other companies trading internationally. That lost tax revenue could save lives" he added.

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