Richard Brooks is an ex-HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) tax inspector turned investigative journalist, regarded as one of the UK’s best reporters on tax avoidance. Brooks is a regular contributor to Private Eye and writes for other publications including The Guardian.
His book The Great Tax Robbery, examining the UK’s corporate tax regime,was released earlier this year. Brooks has also conducted investigations into tax avoidance by SAB Miller in Ghana and Associated British Foods in Zambia, and has written a series of articles on Vodafone’s tax structure.
Brooks says while the OECD’s base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project could produce a blueprint for fair taxation of multinationals, he does not think it will enact the change needed to solve the tax avoidance problem.
“Translating principles into effective tax law in the UK and elsewhere will require Herculean efforts in re-writing tax treaties and domestic laws that the UK and other governments - and their likely successors - will not make as long as they remain beholden to multinationals and their fixers in the tax profession,” says Brooks. “The Coalition's recent trashing of the UK's best defence against profit-shifting to low tax regimes, the controlled foreign companies laws, proved our government's willingness to spout anti-avoidance rhetoric on the world stage whilst enshrining profit-shifting in UK statute.”
And Brooks says recent events have shown that exposure is the most potent weapon to fight tax avoidance, and therefore the most effective measure the UK government could take would be to open up details of companies' tax payments in the country.
He is also concerned that information exchange will come up short in preventing offshore evasion because tax havens do not keep the required information, and says future governments will be left to confront the problem.
“It is for the rest of the world to kick territories with financial secrecy and predatory tax systems out of the economic club,” says Brooks. “In the meantime it is essential that the UK government reverses its disgraceful policy of effectively de-criminalising major tax fraud and its facilitation by private bankers.”
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