The facilitation of tax avoidance strategies could constitute a violation of international human rights law, according to a new report by the International Bar Association.
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights was convened to reflect upon these pressing questions from the perspective of international human rights law and policy. This innovative report:
- provides a detailed overview of tax abuses and secrecy jurisdictions
- investigates the links between tax abuses, poverty and human rights
- draws on case studies from Brazil, Jersey and the SADC region
- evaluates responsibilities and remedies to counter tax abuses affecting human rights
- delivers unique recommendations for states, business enterprises and the legal profession
For the purposes of this report, tax abuses include the tax practices that are contrary to the letter or spirit of domestic and international tax laws and policies. They include tax evasion, tax fraud and other illegal practices − including the tax losses resulting from other illicit financial flows such as bribery, corruption and money laundering. The term ‘tax abuse’ also includes tax practices that may be legal, strictly speaking, but are currently under scrutiny because they avoid a ‘fair share’ of the tax burden and have negative impacts on the tax revenues and economies of developing countries.
This report covers developments in international tax cooperation on issues such as automatic exchange of information, and base erosion and profit-shifting. It also assesses trends in international development policy which are increasingly focused on strengthening good tax governance in developing countries – thereby reducing dependency on foreign aid and improving development outcomes. It demonstrates the evolution of international human rights law and policy, whilst highlighting tax abuses as a pressing human rights concern.
The Task Force’s goals and objectives are:
1. To publish an innovative report containing findings and a set of recommendations on the interaction between illicit financial flows, poverty and human rights.
2. To widely disseminate the report with the view of pushing the issue of tax evasion and human rights onto global policy agendas, and sustaining discussion thereafter.
3. To incite multi-level policy changes in the area of tax evasion and economic, social and cultural rights adjudication to help end global poverty.
The report cites the following topics for relevance in its comprehensive discussion:
- OECD BEPS Action Plan
- OECD Anti-Bribery Convention
- OECD “Tax Inspectors Without Borders” initiative (refer to 9 June posting)
- G8 and G20 countries
- US FATCA rules
- US Dodd Frank legislation
- UK House of Commons
- UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- EU Accounting and Transparency Directives
- Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) (39 countries have signed up)
This report provides interesting insights into the complex relationship of international taxes and non-tax principles and objectives, for which all international tax executives should be aware. Appendices of the report provide suggested recommendations for States, international business and the legal profession to help combat today’s conflicts.