In a strange historical twist, the Group of Eight, the rich
club, has been reinvigorated by the event that threatened to close it,
2008’s financial crisis. Britain’s
then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown,
insisted the crisis demanded a new, more representative body, the Group
of 20, to include China, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. The G-8
would fall by the wayside.
Five years later, it met in Northern
Ireland on 17-18 June and pushed an anti-tax evasion agenda to shore up
treasuries drained by the 2008 crisis. Advised by development economist
Paul Collier, Britain’s Premier
David Cameron set out a plan to
turning point in the battle against tax evasion and avoidance’ and
called on governments to ‘break down the walls of corporate secrecy’.
For the first time, G-8 countries pledged to make multinational
companies disclose the taxes they pay on a country-by-country basis and
demanded greater disclosure about offshore companies and trusts in tax
havens, many of them British dependencies. The G-8’s exhortations put
it a little ahead of the G-20, which plans to make multinationals pay
more tax, especially in developing countries.
Experts such as Global
Financial Integrity welcomed the declaration against tax evasion. The
UK and United States have
shifted from their ardent defence of
financial secrecy but critics still want tougher disclosure rules on
the anonymous shell companies used for tax avoidance, so that the
beneficial owners can be identified.