Christian Aid urges action on secrecy in UK tax havens

By agency reporter
October 17, 2016

The Government’s Criminal Finances Bill will play a useful role in the fight against corruption, but its potential has been overshadowed by the failure to take decisive action on secrecy in UK-owned jurisdictions, says Christian Aid.

Responding to the publication of the bill, Christian Aid’s UK Parliamentary and Political Adviser Simon Kirkland said: “This bill represents a real step forward in the fight against corruption around the world, which costs developing countries a massive $1 trillion each year.

“The Government’s proposed Unexplained Wealth Orders and new offence for companies who fail to prevent tax evasion around the world will have real impacts in the fights against corruption and tax evasion, which so blight the global economy.

“While these measures are a good step forward, there is still much more that the UK can do. Together with its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, it is the most secretive jurisdiction in the world. Territories owned by the UK facilitate huge amounts of tax dodging and corruption every year.

“Without some degree of transparency around company ownership, we don’t even know how much harm we’re causing. But the fact that the British Virgin Islands was the most popular tax haven in the Panama Papers gives us an idea of the harm that UK-owned jurisdictions are doing. The failure of the Government to insist on transparency of company ownership in our tax havens in this bill is a glaring omission.”

Mr Kirkland continued: “The UK led the world in making its company ownership structures transparent. Given that many other countries including Kenya, Nigeria and Afghanistan are following suit, it is time for the Government to make good on a three-year-old promise and ensure that the UK’s tax havens are also transparent about their company ownership.

“This would be an excellent first step for the new Prime Minister to turn her warm words on tax avoidance into decisive action. Without this action, the good in this bill is over-shadowed by the lack of action in this crucial area well within our control.” 

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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