Tax evasion taskforce to probe tax haven UK

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There's excellent news in the Observer today:

Plans have been drawn up for an international taskforce to crack down on tax haven abuses orchestrated in large part by bankers, accountants and lawyers in London.

The imminent formation of an international tax haven taskforce comes as the World Bank, headed by Robert Zoellick, is coming under pressure to establish its first forensic study into the illicit cash flowing out of developing nations.

In a letter seen by The Observer the Norwegian government has taken the unprecedented step of offering to fund the research on behalf of the Bank.

As Nick Mathiason notes:

As authoritative evidence suggests that $1 trillion of illicit funds flow to secretive havens managed by financiers based in London, New York and Dubai, several countries are set to join [the taskforce], but Britain, recently classed as an offshore financial centre by the International Monetary Fund, is not among them.

Exactly 10 times the $100bn spent on aid and debt write-offs by rich countries is siphoned out of developing countries, with corporations responsible for 60 per cent of that figure through a web of trusts, nominee accounts and the flagrant mispricing of goods to escape tax.

Evidence is emerging of how City financiers are using new techniques on behalf of corporations and the super-rich through the creation of protected cell companies and sham offshore trusts. New 'redomicilation' clauses enable vast sums to move from one jurisdiction to another without trace.

Cracking down on tax havens and the evasion of taxes by some of the world's biggest companies is seen as the 'missing link' in the poverty alleviation agenda.

The above have all been recent themes on this blog. The news comes comes from the Movement of Illicit Funds Conference in Washington last Thursday where it was made clear that it was corporations and not corrupt politicians in the developing world that accounted for most tax evasion. Raymond Baker, director of Global Financial Integrity and an expert on money laundering, said at the conference:

'For the first time in 200 years we have an integrated global structure in the Square Mile and Manhattan whose basic purpose is to shift money from the poor to the rich.'

Something is becoming very clear. The agenda on tax, tax havens and corruption is shifting.