Ever wondered what makes tax dodging and money laundering so easy for the rich? It’s the bankers, lawyers and accountants who devise complex schemes to help their clients evade taxes or launder dirty money that really run the tax avoidance industry. They lurk in a murky underworld of the financial system and it is crucial their activities are exposed. While attention has been focused on the corporations themselves Greens have always insisted that the professionals who encourage tax avoidance should be tackled too.
Back in January, together with other Greens in the European Parliament, I published a report on the activities of these intermediaries. Based on the data from the Panama Papers, Bahamas Leaks and Offshore Leaks, the research showed that the vast majority of the intermediaries named in the leaks have a base in the EU. Tax havens are not distant, palm-fringed islands, but our own countries. Shamefully, the United Kingdom emerged as the EU's favourite base for tax avoidance. Among the middlemen are large banks such as UBS, Credit Suisse or Citibank but also law firms and accounting giants.
I'm delighted to say that the Commission has now focused attention on this issue and they will be producing a proposal on Wednesday to shine a light onto the tax middlemen. Since it is intermediaries like banks, accountants or lawyers who advise their clients and devise complex schemes to evade taxes or launder dirty money it is essential that they are required disclose to tax authorities the arrangements they offer to their clients. We are going to be putting pressure on the UK government to agree this proposed directive as quickly as possible – and to stick to these higher standards of transparency after Brexit.
The citizens who are outraged by the burgeoning tax avoidance industry require nothing less from their elected representatives.