Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

PM vows 'tax justice' after G8 deal

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes President of the United States, Barack Obama, to this year's G8 Summit
Crowd members wave an American flag as Barack Obama arrives in Belfast
US President Barack Obama attends a news conference with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Prime Minister David Cameron

David Cameron has promised to deliver "proper tax justice" as leaders of the G8 nations agreed a pact to crack down on tax havens and stop multinational companies shifting profits around the world to avoid paying their fair share.

The Prime Minister said that the agreement secured at the Lough Erne summit in Northern Ireland had the potential to "rewrite the rules" on tax and transparency

The Lough Erne Declaration - signed by the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia - promises to "fight the scourge of tax evasion" by ensuring automatic exchange of tax information and forcing companies to reveal the identities of their ultimate owners. To tackle corruption linked to the trade in resources such as oil, gas and minerals in the developing world, extractive industries and governments should publish details of what money changes hands, the agreement said.

Development charities and anti-poverty campaigners welcomed the action to open up tax havens and enforce openness on extractive industry contracts, but said that the agreement did not go far enough for poor countries to reap the full benefits.

It came as Number 10 tax adviser Paul Collier warned that African countries are losing twice as much in avoided tax as they are getting in aid from the West, and said company directors had a "duty" to ensure their firms paid their share of tax.

Speaking at a press conference at the conclusion of the summit, Mr Cameron said that the agreement "has the potential to rewrite the rules on tax and transparency for the benefit of countries right across the world, including the poorest countries in the world".

New mechanisms to ensure that multinational companies pay taxes in the countries where they earn their profits will allow the authorities to "track and expose those who aren't paying their fair share" and ensure that "we get proper tax payment and proper tax justice in our world", he said.

But the 10-point document, released after two days of talks at Lough Erne, falls short of the demands of anti-poverty campaigners, who want the developing world included in the new arrangements from the start and have called for tax information to be made available to all on public registers.

The declaration says only that developing countries "should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them", rather than guaranteeing them automatic access to the information.

And it states that "tax collectors and law enforcers" should have access to information about the ultimate owners of companies, leaving it to individual G8 countries to decide whether to make the information public as campaigners are demanding.

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