Oxford Centre for Business Taxation excuses tax havens of blame

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I thought I’d rummage around the web site of the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation to see what the only university department in the country whose dedication to free thinking and open questioning has led to it banning my attendance at its conferences might be up to.

I discovered a wonderful paper published in April. It suggests:

OFCs may be tax havens, regulatory havens, or both. They have long been used for a variety of purposes, including tax evasion, tax avoidance and regulatory avoidance. Taking action against global tax evasion and improving standards in global financial regulation are both laudable goals, but they are different goals. Promoting exchange of information for combating tax evasion has little to do with the financial crisis. Improving financial regulation is very relevant to the financial crisis but has little to do with enforcement of tax. Moreover, success in either of these goals is unlikely to have any effect on international tax avoidance. Only substantial developments in the way international income is taxed will change that.

I can agree with the last: we need unitary taxation, and we need country-by-country reporting to make it work, but unitary taxation is not on anyone’s agendas right now (I have to concede, even if country-by-country reporting is) and so I’d suggest Oxford should deal with the world as it is.

In that case so what that the objectives stated are different? Don’t you think we know? Haven’t Oxford actually tried to read any of the information that those of us who oppose tax haven abuse have put out?

Why do they think that we actually call them secrecy jurisdictions, not tax havens? Could it be that we’ve had the decency (unlike them) to define our terms?

Could it be that, unlike them, we’ve actually analysed what these places do and how they do it and have shown that it is secrecy that underpins everything they do – whether tax avoidance, tax evasion or regulatory abuse – plus the facilitation of off-balance sheet finance, and have therefore established the common cause of problems they still think to be different?

Could it be that tax recovery is absolutely linked to paying for the financial crisis? Haven’t they noticed increased government deficits down in Oxford? Or is handling more than one idea simultaneously a touch hard for them to manage?

Or is there another, entirely different explanation? Could it be that, as I’ve suggested many times before the Oxford Centre does actually really rather like tax havens (as they like to call them) because they really rather approve of the tax competition they create, and the pernicious anti-democratic processes they promote. And could that just have anything to do with the fact that this Centre was originally promoted with £5 million of funding by the FTSE 100 Group of Finance Directors – people who do, of course, have a massive vested interest in the continuing availability of these places – a conflict of interest that the Centre does not of course ever draw attention to?

As the FT noted this week – some Business Schools are horribly ethically conflicted – and I’d go so far as to suggest some more than others.