It's been more than three years since I last had the
privilege of writing the editorial in this fine magazine. But
after something of a hiatus editing a current affairs magazine,
covering such cheery topics as international terror, climate
change, North Korean nukes and Donald Trump, I have returned to
the world of tax. And what a time it is to be back.
As I write, I am sitting in a lecture theatre in City,
University of London where the Tax Justice Network is holding
its annual conference. Here, the mood is optimistic. Yes there
are threats to everything these activists hold dear –
Brexit, the aforementioned Trump, a global race to the bottom
on corporate tax rates and social protections. But there is
also a palpable sense that I'm sitting in a room full of people
who know they're winning.
When I first started writing about tax seven years ago,
ideas like country-by-country reporting and automatic
information exchange were commonly considered by those in the
international tax community as fringe concepts entertained only
by radicals. Nothing to take seriously, nothing that would ever
see the light of day.
Now these things are as mainstream as motherhood, apple pie
and Ed Sheeran.
International Tax Review might have been covering
these issues long before anyone else, but in recent years the
general press has caught on with their headlines dragging
company after company through the mud over accusations they
have not been paying their fair share of tax. Multinational
corporations, as a result, often have one eye on reputation now
when it comes to their tax reporting. But more importantly, the
public awakening to the importance of tax in the light of
recession, austerity and squeezed living standards, spurred by
leaks and media revelations, has stirred the international
community into action and it responded with BEPS, making CbCR
But BEPS was just the beginning. Days before this issue went
to press, the European Parliament voted to adopt public CbCR.
Across the room from me, Richard Murphy, the accountant who
invented the standard, looks like a man who's just achieved his
life's ambition. But he's not going to stop there. He has just
called for a revolution, overturning the fundamentals of the
international political and economic system so it works fairly
These are big words from a characteristically fiery
campaigner. Can it be done? Almost every prevailing force of
global finance that has operated since Reagan and Thatcher
ushered in the last great revolution in economics is lined up
against such ideas. But even the smallest of boats can tack
into the wind. And if the last few years have taught us
anything, it's that a small band of hardened activists,
academics and economists can change the world.
It's good to be back.
Managing editor, International Tax Review