Panama Papers database hugely important - but governments not whistle-blowers should be policing our tax system

The publication of the Panama Papers database is a significant blow against tax dodgers but the public should not have to rely on whistleblowers to expose tax cheats, said Oxfam today.  Oxfam is calling on politicians gathering in London for the Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May to end the secrecy that enables companies and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

Max Lawson, Head of policy for Oxfam’s ‘Even it Up’ campaign said:

“The Panama Papers database opens up the murky world of offshore finance to public scrutiny - it is hugely important but we should not have to rely on whistle blowers to police our tax system.

“Governments have been forced into action but the measures announced to date, while welcome, do not go far enough and will not stop tax cheats.  Politicians gathering for the Anti-Corruption Summit this week must do more to end the financial secrecy that allows big business and wealthy elites to hide their money from the tax authorities.  All countries - including tax havens - must agree to establish centralised public registers of the beneficial owners of companies, foundations and trusts so that governments know who really owns and benefits from them, and can tax them accordingly.

“The Panama Papers database exposes tax dodging on an industrial scale – yet it is just the tip of the iceberg. Tax dodgers and the banks and tax havens that support them, are cheating poor countries out of $170 billion in taxes every year. This money could fund health services that could save the lives of almost 150 million children.”

Notes to editors: 

Oxfam is calling for governments to agree new global rules to:

• Establish centralised public registers of the beneficial owners of all companies, foundations and trusts so governments know who really owns and benefits from them and can tax them accordingly

• Require all companies to publish financial reports for every country in which they operate so that there can be an accurate assessment of whether they are paying their fair share of taxes.

• Ensure all countries commit to implement the multilateral system for exchanging tax information on an automatic basis between tax authorities – this should be on a non-reciprocal basis for developing countries – so that all governments including developing countries – can claim the taxes they’re owed from their citizens

Contact information: 

Anna Ratcliff, anna.ratcliff@oxfaminternational.org or +44 (0) 7796993288