May 27 2011 - Christian Aid is urging the Chancellor to consider how poor countries could be harmed by a deal allowing UK citizens with secret Swiss bank accounts to continue hiding their identities from the British taxman.
The charity has written to George Osborne expressing concern about the reported deal, under which UK taxpayers with undeclared Swiss bank accounts would remain anonymous, even as they start to be taxed on their hidden money.
‘This deal, if concluded, would produce immediate tax revenue for the UK but does nothing to challenge Switzerland’s pernicious financial secrecy,’ said David McNair, Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Economic Justice.
‘We fear this action sends the wrong message about what proper cooperation looks like. It would, in our view, set a very poor precedent for the UK and the international community as a whole.
‘This is because Swiss financial secrecy is currently used as a cover for tax evasion, corrupt activities and money laundering, which do untold damage in developing countries,’ added Dr McNair.
‘Christian Aid estimates that poor countries lose some $160bn to tax dodging every year and the OECD acknowledges that the problem costs such countries more than they receive in aid each year.
‘Instead of quietly accepting Swiss financial secrecy, the UK should be throwing its influence behind international efforts towards greater financial transparency, which will make life harder for those committing financial crimes.
‘In the longer term, this is in the interests of the UK as well as most other countries around the world.’
In the letter to the Chancellor, Christian Aid’s Director Loretta Minghella writes: ‘We ask you not to trade short term cash for the longer-term cooperation on which depends the UK’s ability to collect the taxes which are due and which, across the developing world, could assist governments in raising revenue to invest in life-saving, essential services for people living in poverty.’
Christian Aid is part of a coalition of organisations behind the End Tax Haven Secrecy campaign, which is calling on G20 member countries to use their November meeting in Cannes, France, to effectively end tax haven secrecy.
In practice, this requires governments to create a system for automatic sharing of tax-related information with each other, to make it impossible for individuals and companies to hide assets in countries other than their own.
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Notes to Editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.
2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty. Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development. Further details at http://www.actalliance.org
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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk