New Internationalist

Tax haven stand-off

November 2013

An item from the Agenda section of the magazine, where we look beyond the news curve with reports and comment on breaking stories.

Trocaire under a CC Licence
Campaigners push for action on tax evaders. Trocaire under a CC Licence

The last week of November could see a showdown between the British govern­ment and the tax havens over which it has ultimate control – islands such as Bermuda, the Caymans and the British Virgin Islands.

The likely row will centre around demands for the islands to be less secretive about who has money in their banks.

Ministers from the islands – which are collectively known as Britain’s Overseas Territories – are coming to London on 26 and 27 November for their customary annual meeting.

Growing international concern about the damage done by tax evasion, corruption and money laundering has increased pressure on the Territories to be more open.

Greater transparency is key to helping other countries detect and deter the tax evaders and other criminals who drain public services of billions in much-needed funding.

The global super-rich have $20 trillion hidden in tax havens, according to one estimate made by the Tax Justice Network.

In June, the British government announced that the Territories had agreed to sign up to an international law, which commits governments to share information with each other about money held in their countries by foreign taxpayers. The snappily titled ‘Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters’ would enable revenue authorities to trace foreign accounts.

To date, the law is in force in around 30 countries (including Britain), while some 25 other countries are in the process of introducing it.

Among the Overseas Territories, only two – Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands – had by early September been signed up (which is technically done by Britain on their behalf).

The other tax havens have yet to act. They fear greater transparency will harm their lucrative financial industries by causing tax evaders and other criminals to shift their money into countries which have not signed the Convention.

The reluctance of those Territories will increase tension with the govern­ment in London, which ultimately could force them to fall into line – although exactly how remains undefined.

A spokesperson for the British Treasury said ‘many’ of the remaining Territories planned to sign. That was expected to happen in the near future, she added, but could not specify when.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 467 This feature was published in the November 2013 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Tax haven stand-off

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

  1. #1 eleni_aus 27 Nov 13

    The World needs to cooperate to ensure that the uberwealthy and criminals - sometimes one and the same but who BOTH try to avoid legitimate taxation in their home countries - are more appropriately taxed .... The deal is on the table for at least a number of problem states and needs to be signed and reform implemented. The author identifies a problem with suspect funds then flowing to states not currently under such regulation and thought will need to be given to closing such 'ports of call' - perhaps with a 'carrot and stick' approach relating to funding for projects etc or withdrawal of funds for such endeavours?

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Agenda

All Agenda

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 467

New Internationalist Magazine issue 467
Issue 467

More articles from this issue

  • John Pilger: Australia's silent apartheid

    November 1, 2013

    The investigative journalist and filmmaker tells Hazel Healy about his new film, and explains why Australia is still on an international ‘shame list’.

  • Country Profile: Bolivia

    November 1, 2013

    A flourishing economy, more jobs and less poverty - is Bolivia a Latin American success story?

  • Mandela, my hero!

    November 1, 2013

    The current 'beatification' of Mandela is an attempt to neutralize his political legacy, says Steve Parry.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.