As Google and Apple are probed on tax avoidance, it's time for political leaders around the world to take a stand and stamp the practice out

We are losing £100bn annually through aggressive tax avoidance

Related Topics

Sometimes charities have to do a bit of getting on their soap box and moralising to be noticed, but luckily for me, on this one the numbers speak for themselves.

With the help of our resident tax geek - Matti Kohonen - Oxfam has crunched the numbers from the Bank of International Settlements, Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook and other sources to calculate how much wealth is held offshore by individuals and how much tax we are all losing as a result. The figures are mindboggling.

We have found that people are stashing at least £12 trillion offshore. And as a result, the tax revenue we are losing globally is more than £100 billion. As well as being a lot of zeros, that's enough to end extreme poverty twice over.

"That old chestnut" I hear some of you cry (we’ve claimed a few things could end poverty recently), but the fact is that it is a compelling illustration of what such a colossal sum could do. With one in eight people around the world going hungry, women dying every day in childbirth in the poorest countries, and hundreds of thousands of people right here in the UK having to resort to food banks there’s certainly no shortage of need. Whatever you care about, whatever you’re worried about being starved of funding, I bet £100 bn could pay for quite a lot of it.  

As well as calculating how much of people’s money is sloshing around idly in tax havens, we've also been able to look at who can change this.  And those numbers tell a pretty strong story too. One third of the lost tax money is being facilitated by UK-linked tax havens - the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.  And whilst the UK has reached out to some of these territories to share tax information with us – a crucial step to making sure people and companies are taxed fairly – it doesn’t yet do anything for the poorest people.

This week David Cameron has written again to UK tax havens, and today the government has confirmed that they strongly support the ‘Multilateral Convention’ – a convention that gets signatories - who can include developing countries - to share vital tax information. Extending this convention to tax havens, and making sure that there will be consequences if they don’t play ball, is exactly what we are looking for ahead of the G8. And there are just a few weeks to go.

Taking a slightly less parochial view, with David Cameron in Brussels today at a meeting of EU leaders, of course this is not just a story about the UK. European tax havens (including ours) account for two thirds of the tax dodging problem.  The right people are in the room today -  it is time for them to act.  As well as getting all tax havens signed up the Multilateral Convention, we need a blacklist of tax havens agreed by European nations, and we need a public registry of the ultimate owners of all assets held offshore.  

Public opinion is leading the way on this one.  My taxi driver this morning told me that he thinks it's unfair that the wealthy have accountants who can help them get away with paying the bare minimum of tax.  So even though we're number crunching here in Oxfam, I do come back to the soap box in the end.  A tax system that is rigged in favour of the privileged, whilst ordinary families struggle to get by – both here and in the poorest countries - is not a tax system people will stand for any longer.  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
Angela Merkel and David Cameron say goodbye in the Bundeskanzleramt after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 29 May 2015  

The complacency of Europhiles could lose them the referendum

Steve Richards
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral