SP Symposium: ‘Huge tax theft must stop’

18 June 2009

SP Symposium: ‘Huge tax theft must stop’

Billions of euros in profits, capital gains and earnings are being syphoned off from taxes on a global level. This deprives developing countries in particular of any possibility of constructing a decent public sector for their own people. Rich countries and international financial organisations are aware of the problem, yet effective measures against tax evasion remain inadequate. “How can we stop this massive theft from the public purse?" asked SP Senator Tiny Kox at a symposium on global tax crime organised by the SP in the Dutch national Senate in The Hague this week. “And why have we put it with it for so long?”

A range of experts gave their reactions to this question. According to Belgian Professor Francine Mestrum, of the Tax Justice Network, tax evasion costs poor countries much more than they receive in development aid. Without a decent tax system poor countries will never be able to develop or to construct an effective public sector. Professor Mestrum presented a book, containing a number of alarming contributions, to Secretary of State for Finance Jan Kees de Jager, who announced that the Dutch government was working on an international level towards more transparency. The Dutch affiliate of the Tax Justice Network pointed, however, to the fact that the Netherlands continues to harbour thousands of firms which in reality maintain nothing more than box numbers in the country while practising massive tax evasion and in this way stealing from national budgets.

According to the OECD, the club for industrialised countries, the world has suffered the problem of global tax evasion for many years. The OECD would like to see something done about it, but has for years been able to achieve little in the way of positive results. As a consequence of the credit crisis, the revelation of the scandals surrounding Lichtenstein banks, and the the entering into office of President Obama, change seems imminent. Secret banking is under pressure and the public is ever less prepared to accept that corporations and individuals with a great deal of money can get away with fiddling their taxes, especially as tax rates have become progressively lower. Actions such as those conducted by organisations like the Tax Justice Network also, in the OECD's view, contribute to bringing about more measures against tax evasion. .

SP Senator Tuur Elzinga, on whose initiative the symposium was organised, said that he was delighted with what the event had achieved. "We now have a clearer picture of major tax fraud and its consequences. Now it's time for policy-makers to act. If we allow multinationals to slope off with their profits, hunger, poverty and underdevelopment will persist. This would be short-sighted and in the end we would all pay the price. With all of these data to hand we can really keep the Dutch government on its toes. And we can make creative proposals to reduce tax evasion and by these means enhance the public wealth. This is part of our struggle for international solidarity."

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