Paris trip that was mission possible
East Ham MP Steve Timms talks of tackling tax concerns LAST month I took the Eurostar to Paris. It was a good trip for two reasons. First, because I was able to achieve something useful. Since the G20 summit at the ExCeL centre last April, there has bee
East Ham MP Steve Timms talks of tackling tax concerns
LAST month I took the Eurostar to Paris. It was a good trip for two reasons. First, because I was able to achieve something useful.
Since the G20 summit at the ExCeL centre last April, there has been a big international push to tackle tax evasion and avoidance.
In the UK we have signed 21 tax information exchange agreements with other countries since January 2009 - giving our tax inspectors additional information.
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Around the world, there has been more progress on tax information exchange in the past year than in the previous ten put together. And extra money is starting to come into the Treasury as a result.
But tax evasion doesn't only hit developed countries like the UK.
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Research from the Government's Department for International Development suggests developing countries are losing at least $50 billion per year in tax they should be receiving - and possibly up to $300 billion.
Compare this with the UK's annual international aid budget - about $10 billion. And the G20 summit committed to ensuring developing countries gain from the new international tax transparency, as well as developed countries.
One simple idea has been championed by the charities Christian Aid and Action Aid. It is that companies should undertake "Country-by-Country reporting".
Companies would publish each year how much profit they make in each country where they operate, and how much tax they pay there. Big discrepancies will be obvious.
Impressed by this idea, I raised it at an international tax conference in Berlin last June.
It was new to most participants; some country representatives said it looked interesting.
From there it found its way to the agenda of the Anglo-French summit last July. Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy decided to ask the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to research country by country reporting.
OECD's report was tabled at the meeting I attended in Paris.
It was agreed there that OECD will produce a guideline on country by country reporting by the end of this year. This will be added to the OECD's Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
These don't have the status of law, but they are influential in deciding best practice for major companies.
So I am hoping that - thanks to these efforts - we will see developing countries receiving more tax revenue in the future, helping them provide the health services and education that their people need.
It was a good trip for a second reason too. It was my first trip to Paris from Stratford International station - which I started the campaign for in 1987.
Unfortunately, it is awkward to get to at the moment. You have to go to the normal Stratford station, and walk through to the far end of Platform 11. From there you take a five minute bus ride across the Olympic Park.
And international trains don't stop at Stratford yet. You have to go first into St Pancras (six minutes - fare �5) and then change to a Eurostar. But I enjoyed my first taste of Stratford's new international role.