Oxfam has published an open letter signed by hundreds of respected economists, including Thomas Piketty, which describes tax havens as "serving no useful economic purpose."
The economists come from more than 30 countries, and include current Nobel laureate Angus Deaton. They come from all over the political spectrum, and have varying views on optimal taxation, but all agree that tax havens serve only to allow the very wealthy, and multinational corporations, to avoid paying their fair share.
They point out that tax havens aren't accidents: they are created by governments, especially governments from rich, populous countries like the USA and the UK. These governments have it in their power to shut them down. The Panama Papers' detailed account of the sleaze in the offshore finance world serves as a kind of evidentiary backdrop for their call.
They single out the UK especiallly, unsurprising, given the country's near-shore (Channel Island) and offshore (BVI) tax havens.
As the Panama Papers and other recent exposés have revealed, the secrecy provided by tax havens fuels corruption and undermines countries' ability to collect their fair share of taxes. While all countries are hit by tax dodging, poor countries are proportionately the biggest losers, missing out on at least $170bn of taxes annually as a result.
As economists, we have very different views on the desirable levels of taxation, be they direct or indirect, personal or corporate. But we are agreed that territories allowing assets to be hidden in shell companies or which encourage profits to be booked by companies that do no business there, are distorting the working of the global economy. By hiding illicit activities and allowing rich individuals and multinational corporations to operate by different rules, they also threaten the rule of law that is a vital ingredient for economic success.
To lift the veil of secrecy surrounding tax havens we need new global agreements on issues such as public country by country reporting, including for tax havens. Governments must also put their own houses in order by ensuring that all the territories, for which they are responsible, make publicly available information about the real "beneficial" owners of company and trusts. The UK, as host for this summit and as a country that has sovereignty over around a third of the world's tax havens, is uniquely placed to take a lead.
Tax havens 'serve no useful economic purpose': 300 economists tell world leaders
(via Beyond the Beyond)