Cantillon: Panama Papers review focuses on Irish ecommerce scene

US fail to enter spirit of OECD project chaired by outspoken critic of global tax regulation

 Mossack Fonseca’s offices in Panama: The Australian Tax Office is investigating the affairs of 800 taxpayers from an earlier, smaller leak of papers from the   firm, and has reportedly found a significant minority of the names were of interest. Photograph: Alejandro Bolivar/EPA

Mossack Fonseca’s offices in Panama: The Australian Tax Office is investigating the affairs of 800 taxpayers from an earlier, smaller leak of papers from the firm, and has reportedly found a significant minority of the names were of interest. Photograph: Alejandro Bolivar/EPA

 

The not-so-catchily named Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration (Jitsic) network, which is organised by way of the OECD, got a moment in the sun yesterday as it met to discuss the Panama Papers revelations.

The body is chaired by an Australian tax commissioner, Chris Jordan, who has been quite outspoken about tax avoidance and the particular challenges facing tax authorities in a globalised world. The meeting, called last Friday, was held in response to the global impact of the Panama Papers revelations, with a representative of the Revenue Commissioners among those in attendance.

Interestingly, Jordan and others have been pushing collaboration-type initiatives that bear a resemblance to the thinking behind the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Washington DC body that organised the Panama Papers project.

One of the initiatives that came out of the Jitsic network involved a look at six of the world’s largest ecommerce multinationals, something no doubt of interest, or maybe even concern, to Ireland. According to the Australian Financial Review, the tax officials found what some companies were telling the tax authorities differed from country to country.

US position

The project is another example of how the global tax scene is one of flux, controversy and geopolitics; a worrying mix for a State so dependent on a foreign direct investment sector underpinned by a tax offering.

There is nothing illegal about using offshore services. But the Australian Tax Office is investigating the affairs of 800 taxpayers from an earlier, smaller leak of papers from the Panamanian-based Mossack Fonseca firm, and has reportedly found a significant minority of the names were of interest. It got the data from the German tax authorities via the global tax co-operation network which has been used before by the Revenue Commissioners to access leaked data such as the bank files from HSBC in Switzerland, which came via the French tax authorities.

Business long ago broke free of national borders. The media is in the process of following suit. And now that most nationally focused institution, the tax authority, is having to rethink how it views its place in the world.

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