TIEA’s before bed time

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The FT has reported that:

Suspected tax evaders could face exposure under agreements signed by several offshore financial centres with close links to Britain.

The reason? Some tax havens are rushing to sign Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the UK. These are the OECD's weapon of choice against tax havens. In the last few weeks the British Virgin Islands has signed one. So has the Isle of Man. With great reluctance Jersey is moving that way.

But there's a problem. As the FT also notes:

[T]ax information ex-change agreements are typically used sparingly as countries seeking information have to make a strong case against the individual they are seeking to investigate. Jersey's agreement with the US has only been used four times, although it believes the existence of the agreement makes individuals more likely to co-operate.

That's being kind. TIEA's do not provide access to information: they allow for confirmation of what is already known about the activity of tax abusers in tax havens. But if those abusers do not leave a trail that can be followed in the major economies then there is no chance of using a TIEA to uncover what they do.

This is not transparency: this is a charade. And there is no way that these TIEA will solve the problem that offshore poses. Unsurprising that the secrecy jurisdictions are signing up for them. All the odds are in their favour. They can claim to cooperate and comply with all requirements imposed on them. In practice they give nothing away. Much more radical solutions are needed if we are to avoid turmoil.

Do not be confused by TIEAs. The process is designed to deny tax authorities the information they need. The process will end in tears unless we challenge the OECD's weakness in proposing this process.