European Union: EU’s Tax Evasion Drive Misses The Point

The media coverage on tax evasion has spiked again on the back of the Cahuzac affair with the French budget Minister responsible for combatting tax evasion indulging in a bit of it himself, by hiding €600,000 in an undeclared Swiss bank account.

The French establishment and media have launched into a tirade of condemnation not just directed at Monsieur Cahuzac but at the Swiss too. President Hollande has insisted his cabinet declare all personal wealth to remove any further suspicion attaching to his administration, in response to the media frenzy which has broken out.

Luxembourg have hinted they will go to automatic information exchange in 2015 but Austria have come out strongly against this and have joined in the blame game pointing the finger at the British territories.

The Swiss Finance Minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, according to Reuters, has said Switzerland is being singled out unfairly and more attention needs to be given to American and Caribbean centres.

Cash strapped government remedies to get their economies moving are running into the ground, and they are lashing out, egged on by NGOs who tout papers masquerading as research that is in reality lobbying propaganda suggesting that billions is being lost through tax evasion.

The latest €1trn loss figure now being trumpeted by Tax Commissioner Semeta at the recent Dublin EU Finance Ministers, isn’t produced by a major university or research house, but by the Tax Research organisation, a left of centre lobbying organisation, and was produced for a socialist MEP alliance in the European parliament.

HMRC commented on the same tax lobbying organisations assessment of the UK tax gap as follows:

“Tax gap measurement is not an exact science. But we are confident that £35bn is a much more realistic estimate of the tax gap than £120bn. "

So the official body responsible for collecting taxes with the richest source of data and knowledge believes its tax gap is a quarter of that quoted by the tax lobbyists, and of that figure only a small proportion is attributed to offshore tax evasion. No doubt the lobbyist ‘multiplication’ factor has been applied to the EU numbers.

Further, misleading information on trusts continues to be propagated. Trusts are not impenetrable secrecy vehicles although a number of politicians and lobbyists are doing their best to characterise them in this way. Any entity in Jersey including a trust is fully accessible under the tax information exchange agreements we have in place. In addition, beneficial ownership information must be held by the service provider and released on request under the terms of our agreements.

There is no bank secrecy in Jersey or any other form of secrecy, only compliant confidentiality, which naturally arises under data protection laws as with all nations.

The reason the EU drive will miss the mark is that tax evasion in centres like Jersey is consistently overestimated and there is a much bigger problem for the EU nations nearer to home.

The diagram below taken from the official UK tax gap work for 2010 – 2011 reveals that most of the problem is domestic, arising from errors or non disclosed cash transactions in the black economy: -

I wrote on HMRC exposing the tax lobbyists position here

In the UK figures, 93% of tax receipts due are collected and a large proportion of those that are not, are businesses or individuals who go bust or pay late.

Commissioner Semeta has called for a tougher stance on ‘tax havens’, but he should really have a closer look at the ‘research’ on which he is justifying such recommendations.

The EU would be better served to look at official sources such as the IMF, FATF and OECD’s assessment of the fight against money laundering including tax evasion.

If they did, they would see that places like Jersey are amongst the very best performers globally in fighting financial crime including tax evasion, and the source of their problems lies much nearer to home.

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