World leaders have been urged to put an end to tax havens in a letter signed by a number of leading economists.
More than 300 top economists, including Thomas Piketty and 2015 Nobel Prize economics winner Angus Deaton have stated that there is no economic benefit to tax havens and are pressing world leaders at a London summit to lift the veil of secrecy around them.
Negotiations are underway between British officials and the crown dependencies and overseas territories, in an effort to persuade them to agree to a form of automatic exchange of information on beneficial ownership of companies. So far, the overseas territories have only agreed to allow UK law enforcement agencies access to a privately held register of beneficial ownerships, but the automatic exchange agreement would give a wider range of countries access to information on the ownership of shell companies. Many overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands, are resisting the idea.
The economists and academics are urging governments to agree new global rules requiring companies to publicly report taxable activities in every country in which they operate, and ensure all territories publicly disclose information about the real owners of companies and trusts.
Oxfam, which drew up the letter, noted that over half the companies mentioned in the Panama papers were listed in UK overseas territories such as the British Virgin Islands. The UK has already agreed a deal on data sharing with Germany, France, Italy and Spain to help crack down on tax dodging, but Britain is the only country of the five so far to agree to make the information public.