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Tax journalists

The fourth estate

Tax journalists

We are not being indulgent. This listing is not about the superlative reporting of International Tax Review. It is, in fact, a nod to any journalist that wrote about international tax in 2013. It is plain that the taxpayers at the centre of many of the stories would not have appreciated the public discussion of their company’s tax planning, even if it is dubious how much genuinely confidential information was revealed.

They do not get party invitations from tax professionals and will not be waiting around for Christmas cards from officials, but people such as Jesse Drucker of Bloomberg, Tom Bergin and Patrick Temple-West of Reuters, Alexi Mostrous and Faye Schlesinger of the Times in London have persisted in writing about matters of genuine public interest - how governments raise revenue and where it comes from. And they have been getting professional recognition too. Mostrous won news reporter of the year and, with Schlesinger, the scoop of the year, awards at the Society of Editors’ British Press Awards in March 2013 for stories on tax avoidance. Bergin was named business, finance and economics journalist of the year at the British Journalism Awards in December 2013 and also won the award for financial/economic story of the year for a story called “Starbucks slips UK tax hook” at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards, also in London, in the same month.

And it is not only journalists writing in English that have produced tax stories. Der Spiegel, in Germany, to take one example, has also covered similar ground. Broadcast journalists have also been adding to the coverage, with the BBC’s Panorama programme doing at least three half-hour exposés of different aspects of tax avoidance in the last 18 months, and Radio Canada was responsible for a programme that looked at the tax affairs of Cirque du Soleil, the live entertainment company.

Critics say journalists’ understanding of tax is superficial and their articles or broadcasts do not help the public comprehend the detail around tax planning. But what cannot be denied is that this is the first time for some years, if not ever, that the layman has questioned how multinational corporations manage their tax affairs and shown a real interest in understanding it. Tax journalists are as responsible as anyone for prompting that interest.

The Global Tax 50 2013
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