PACE seeks global tax transparency and stronger policies on tax havens

Strasbourg, 27.04.2012 – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has demanded a series of steps to end what it calls “massive tax avoidance, evasion and fraud” caused by secrecy jurisdictions, tax havens and offshore financial centres.

Adopting a resolution based on a report by Dirk van der Maelen (Belgium, SOC), the parliamentarians said tackling global distortions due to harmful or predatory tax practices – including bank secrecy, lack of transparency and effective public oversight, regulatory dumping, predatory tax arrangements and abusive accounting techniques within multinational companies – was “a moral duty” because they drain public finances and cause serious harm to the public interest.

“Thanks to growing public outcries, international co-operation has intensified, notably at the G20 level, to tackle the root problems concerning tax havens […]. However, the situation is far from satisfactory, and further progress is needed to close legal gaps and loopholes,” the Assembly said.

Among other things, the Assembly called for:

  • stepping up pressure over secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens identified in the report to phase out fiscal bank secrecy
  • country-by-country reporting by multinationals wherever they operate, across all business sectors
  • a ban on anonymous accounts, off-balance-sheet bookkeeping and bearer shares
  • disclosure of the ultimate beneficial ownership of all business entities, notably trusts and funds
  • harmonisation of tax practices across Europe and beyond
  • moving towards the automatic exchange of all tax information
  • ending artificial tax minimisation techniques “which may be legal but not ethical”

The parliamentarians concluded: “Sound tax systems are the cornerstone of public finances: they underpin democratic governance, state authority, macroeconomic stability and social cohesion.”