Leaders set out plan to stamp out tax-evasion

Syrian conflict condemned, but no joint demand for Assad to step down

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the G8 on Tuesday at Lough Erne,   Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photograph:  Stefan Rousseau/ WPA Pool /Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the G8 on Tuesday at Lough Erne, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/ WPA Pool /Getty Images

Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 10:50

Global leaders meeting in Co Fermanagh signed a 10-point plan to stamp out aggressive tax evasion and avoidance by big business.

Although the leaders of the Group of Eight industrial powers also condemned the “appalling conflict” in Syria, they stopped short of a joint demand for Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power.

Citing continued economic uncertainty in the world, the leaders of the US, Britain, Germany, Russia, Canada, Japan, France and Italy pledged action to support demand and resolved to secure their public finances and reform their economies to boost growth.

British prime minister David Cameron said he had three priorities for the summit: tax, trade and transparency. The leaders also took stock of the battle against international terrorism and renewed their pledges on development aid.

Tax
With tax to the fore of the agenda yesterday, the leaders signed what they termed the Lough Erne Declaration in which they said governments had a special responsibility to make proper rules and to promote good corporate governance.

“Fair taxes, increased transparency and open trade are vital drivers of this,” they said.

The declaration said tax bodies across the world should automatically share information to fight the scourge of tax evasion. Companies should also know who really owned them, with tax authorities and the police empowered to easily obtain such information.

“Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes and multinationals should report to tax authorities what tax they pay where,” the declaration said.

In separate summit conclusions, the leaders promised to work with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to quickly develop a “multilateral model” to make it easier for governments to find and punish tax evaders.

“On tax avoidance, we support the OECD’s work to tackle base erosion and profit shifting,” they said.

“We will support developing countries to collect the taxes owed them, with access to the global tax information they need.

“We agree to publish national action plans to make information on who really owns and profits from companies and trusts available to tax collection and law enforcement agencies, for example through central registries of company beneficial ownership.”

Trade
The leaders also promised to resist protectionism and to conclude a swathe of ambitious trade deals. Prime among these is an anticipated EU-US agreement, with talks set to begin next month in Washington.

They lauded the launch of the EU-Japan trade negotiations and looked forward to the completion of the EU-Canada trade agreement. “We aim to finalise all these deals as soon as possible,” they said.

“We are committed to strengthening the multilateral trading system and securing a WTO deal in December that cuts bureaucracy to make it easier and faster for goods to cross borders and we will keep our promises to help developing countries slash barriers to trade that impede growth.”

Transparency
In both their summit conclusions and the Lough Erne Declaration, the leaders also resolved to empower people to hold governments and companies to account.

The declaration said extractive companies should report any payments to governments, with governments obliged to publish details of income from such companies.

The aim is to weed out bribes and corrupt payments by providing scope to compare the figures published by companies and governments.

“Land transactions should be transparent, respecting the property rights of local communities,” it said.

Syria
The leaders’ failure to make a joint call for Bashar al-Assad’s departure reflected the concerns of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The leaders said they strongly supported the proposal for a conference to reach a political solution to the conflict through implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.

“We will contribute generously to the latest United Nations appeal for humanitarian help. We condemn in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons and all human rights violations in Syria.”

Terrorism
The leaders said they rejected the payment of ransoms to terrorist kidnappers and called on countries and companies around the world stamp out such payments.

“We will help each other to resolve hostage incidents by sharing best practice in advance and offering expertise as necessary when they take place,” they said.

They pledged action to help in the battle against terrorists in northern Africa, the Middle East, Mauritania and Somalia.

In particular, they said they would help governments find and dismantle terrorist networks and to build effective and accountable government.

“We are committed to protecting our nationals and reducing terrorist groups’ access to funding which allows them to thrive.”

Aid
On the development agenda, the leaders said they would keep their promises and would be held accountable to the public for them. “We will work closely with African governments and citizens to promote sustainable growth.”