Tax Haven Crackdown Reaps Big Rewards

Pascal Saint-Amans, director of a unit at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, cast doubt on estimates that tax havens are illicitly sheltering wealth equivalent to several hundred times the fortune of Bill Gates
Tax Haven Crackdown Reaps Big Rewards

Eric Gaillard/Reuters

LONDON – A global campaign to tax trillions of dollars hidden in offshore tax havens has made revolutionary progress, an official leading the drive said, rejecting suggestions that the super rich are running rings around Western authorities.

Pascal Saint-Amans, director of a unit at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, also cast doubt on estimates that the havens are illicitly sheltering wealth equivalent to several hundred times the fortune of Bill Gates.

Leaders of the G20 group of leading Western and developing nations launched the campaign three years ago, aiming to claw back billions in lost tax revenue at a time when many governments are trying to cut huge budget deficits.

Saint-Amans said his gut feeling was that before the G20’s initiative at its 2009 London summit, people could hide their wealth in offshore havens without any risk of legal reprisals.

“Now you are at risk and that’s a major change. That’s a revolution,” Paris-based Saint-Amans told Reuters in a telephone interview. Even if money is transferred abroad, rules improving transparency have made it easier for the taxman to find it, said Saint-Amans, whose unit is tasked with leading the Western efforts to fight tax evasion.

The Tax Justice Network, a campaign group, estimated last weekend that as much as US$21- to US$32-trillion of financial assets are sheltered in offshore tax havens, representing up to US$280-billion in lost income tax.

A global campaign to tax trillions of dollars hidden in offshore tax havens has made revolutionary progress, an official leading the drive said, rejecting suggestions the super rich are running rings around Western authorities.

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