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

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
“You're running away!” Nick said to me the other night as I tried to leave the hospital  

In Sickness and in Health: ‘There’s nothing I want more than to have you at home, but you’re not well’

Rebecca Armstrong
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments