Where should the line between legitimate tax avoidance and immoral tax abuse be drawn? What are the responsibilities of governments, corporations and legal professionals in combating tax abuse? Tax revenues lost by the developing world due to tax abuse are estimated at $120bn per annum. This is equivalent to the total amount of aid provided to these countries each year and the situation is worsening. Recovering the lost tax would make a substantial contribution to the alleviation of poverty.
Last week PolicyBristol and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute hosted a high level panel discussion addressing these issues. The event was chaired by Shirley Pouget, Senior Programme Lawyer at the IBAHRI and panellists were:
- Anders Dalhbeck Tax Justice Policy Advisor at ActionAid
- Celia Wells Head of Bristol University Law School
- Lloyd Lipsett Advisor at Shift
- Thomas Pogge Director of the Global Justice Program and the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University
- Ben Dickinson Head of the Tax and Development Programme at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
The topic of tax avoidance has been drawing headlines recently on a micro-economic scale (Gary Barlow’s tax activity being an example of a celebrity abusing tax laws) and the matter is becoming increasingly publicised. In discussing the relationship between tax abuses and poverty, the panel argued that the current economic crisis has created a strain on financial policy, felt by members of the public and therefore raising the stature of the issue; they considered that all tax avoidance cases should be viewed as criminal.