Below the jump: a fantastic infographic on how money is hidden by large U.S. corporations in tax havens. Definitely worth clicking a “read more.”
Things have been busy here at Task Force Blog central over the past few weeks. We apologize deeply for the slightly slower pace of new content in this space of late. Luckily, the light at the end of the busy tunnel is visible, and its getting brighter every day. In the meantime, here are Some great links to check out:
Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan released a statement late last week, in advance of the Africa Progress Panel’s May 10th report, Equity in Extractives. The statement is short, but sweet:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the United States is one of the primary research arms of the federal government. It publishes reports, often at the request of Congress, to help answer questions related to important policy. Congressed asked the GAO to evaluate the IRS’s effort to clamp down on offshore tax evasion, and the GAO responded with a surprisingly insightful report.
Joshua Keating posted some excellent information over at Foreign Policy today:
Research from Niels Johannesen of the University of Copenhagen and Gabriel Zucman of the Paris School of Economics looks at the result ofinternational agreements taken to prevent tax evasion in the wake of the global financial crisis. The results are not very encouraging for reformers:
Every year, multinational corporations avoid billions of dollars in taxes globally by using abusive profit shifting to move revenue to tax havens and costs to jurisdictions where they actually do business. This is called transfer pricing, and is the biggest problem that the Task Force’s Country-by-Country Reporting recommendation is designed to fix, by forcing publish exposure of where firms are reporting their figures.
We’re Not Broke, the documentary released last year on corporate tax avoidance and the movement to change it, is now available in segments on Youtube. And unlike our previous post on We’re Not Broke, the segments are viewable by readers outside the United States. Below is the one on abusive profit shifting:
ICIJ’s investigation last week into the world of secrecy in tax havens is a voluminous, detailed, entirely worthwhile read. There are literally dozens of unique stories that you can sift through, including this weekend’s fantastic summary in the Washington Post of the investigation. The damage from offshore secrecy comes far and wide, from billionaires like Bernie Madoff using offshore tax havens to facilitate Ponzi schemes to couples trying to unable to locate assets following a divorce.
Brad Plumer had a great article in The Washington Post today on the consequences of economic inequality in the United States. As inequality increases, all sorts of crazy things might happen: politicians may ease credit regulations, allowing middle class citizens (who are less wealthy due to inequality) to borrow from the future in order to keep up short term consumption, leading to bad long term consequences like increased bankruptcy, divorce, housing bubbles, etc.
For the first time, the Task Force Regional Representatives delivered specific recommendations to the BRICS governments, which met in South Africa this week. The BRICS countries hold a unique position among developing countries and emerging markets: they suffer from the same persistent problems relating to international taxation, transfer pricing, exchange of information, and tax evasion and avoidance that affect the rest of the developing world, but unlike many developing countries, hold significant power and influence at the international institutions and fora. All five BRICS are members of the G20, and Russia holds the Presidency this year.
If you only watch one video today, this one is for you. Task Force member Global Witness published their stunning investigation today. The documentary uncovers how corruption is facilitated in Malaysia. Hidden cameras show Malaysian money launderers explaining exactly how they are going to set up an anonymous shell company (complete with finding rural villagers to sign their names on as nominee shareholders), buy massive amounts of land from corrupt Malaysian officials, and move the money to a secret Singapore bank account.
Malaysia lost $285 billion in 2001-2010 to illicit financial outflows, and Global Witness has vividly demonstrated how such enormous sums manage to find their way out of the country. And to make matters worse, the corrupt and illegal logging and land deals contribute to the destruction of Malaysia’s vibrant rain forests. There are even connections to HSBC, which helped bankroll companies widely suspected of bribery and corruption.
If there is a one sentence argument that we forward here at the Task Force, it is this: financial opacity, of all kinds, is a root cause of global poverty. Media reports sometimes fail to make this connection and sometimes tinker around the edges of it, but rarely make the link as directly as Hakima Abbas’ excellent op-ed for Al-Jazeera.
If you only read one thing today, this article should be it. Nicholas Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands and member of Task Force member Task Justice Network, published his stirring, mammoth article on the City of London in Vanity Fair today. London is not only a major nexus of global finance, but also one of the central points in the global shadow financial system, where criminals, corrupt public officials, and tax evaders eventually plant their hidden wealth.