It’s been another busy week for tax justice, with the UK tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Gibraltar coming to London for their annual summit.
At the end of last week we delivered a whopping 38,699 petition signatures to David Cameron, asking him not to relax on tax havens. Next, we teamed up with Christian Aid, Oxfam and War on Want to sound the alarm in the media.
Tax was one of the main items on the summit agenda, which must have been particularly embarrassing for the British Virgin Islands, which failed to meet even the OECD’s pretty low bar on tax transparency, just a week ago.
So what’s the verdict?
We’ve certainly seen some steps in the right direction. All of the Overseas Territories have now signed up to sharing tax information on request with other countries and automatically with the UK. They’ll also consult on publishing the real (or ‘beneficial) owners of companies, after the UK announced that it would go public.
However, these are still fairly small steps compared to the scale of the problem – and certainly not nearly enough for UK tax havens to shed their label. Transparency needs to go much further (putting company accounts on public record for a start), but tax havens also need to close the harmful tax loopholes that facilitate tax dodging in the first place.
Don’t forget that the OECD estimates developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.
The challenge now is to make sure that momentum for change continues. We couldn’t have got this far without your amazing support and with luminaries such as Kofi Annan continuing to speak out, it’s clear we’ve got an increasing number of friends in high places.
We’ve been able to demonstrate that business as usual is not an option. Next we need to stop big businesses using tax havens to avoid their bills for good.