I used to think everything about tax was boring.
Over the last decade I have been proved wrong time and time again. At law school I was never keen on numbers and often,and still think sometimes,that since every number can be expressed in words, who needs them!
Then I discovered international tax. As a specialised area of public international law it is quite divorced from the number crunching that every revenue law class seemed to suggest. As a fabulous bonus, international tax is centred on the negotiation and interpretation of tax treaties as well as the articulation of the policy than informs their content and the defence of their use.
All of this is right up my street!
For over a decade I been leading a team of tax treaty negotiators and have successfully negotiated just over 20 agreements…and counting.I have also been quite fortunate in being able to participate in high level national, regional and international dialogue on matters of public and private policy related to international tax, specifically tax havens, offshore financial centres, tax avoidance, tax evasion and the changing global rules and regulations governing tax competition and the regulation of international business and financial services.
This appeals to the advocate in me, and satisfies my penchant for defending those that are least able to do so for themselves.
I am passionate about my work.
International tax and in particular tax treaty negotiation and policy setting is a specialised area and have gratefully embraced the several opportunities I have been afforded to authored dozens articles on the policy and practice of international tax; and what I like to refer to as tax diplomacy. I quite enjoy writing and defending policies that reinforce the imperative of a ‘level playing field’ for all countries engaged in the legitimate and responsible trade in financial services.
Since the OECD’s first attempt to characterise tax competition, outside the EU, as ‘harmful’ the number of lobbies whose agenda is to reinforce the cartel of international financial services that existed before banking and other financial services became more competitive largely; because professionals with this expertise deliberately set out to find jurisdictions that were interested in offering legitimate, innovative services in a top class business infrastructure, has mushroomed.
In a nutshell the refusal of some to tackle tax reform in the source countries for investment has led to its outsourcing to countries with a more transparent simplified and yes, competitive tax profile. This is however not all that offshore financial centres offer because they know that business thrives on stability, predictability, connectivity and the ready supply of proven ability which they provide ‘in spades’.
Not every financial centre, offshore or onshore, is above reproof in how they attract business. Indeed so notorious have some small island and landlocked principalities become that their names have become synonymous with ‘dirty money’. This is however changing but some will say in private that they still like the free publicity, firmly of the view that any publicity,even bad publicity, is good publicity.
This I suppose is to be expected.
What is unfortunately though is that in an attempt to diminish competition, small countries, divorced from the epicentre of the global financial meltdown continue to be easy prey for larger financial centres jostling for increased market share. This is not to say that the international agenda on tax does not have its merits but it is in the application of the rules backed by threat to sanction by those also competing for this type of business that raises important questions of sovereignty overreach and the legality of state action.
My blog expresses my own opinion and does not reflect the views of any public of private sector organisation with whom I have been or am associated. It is true like many cases of ‘private’ opinion it has parallels with the opinions of others. My case is no different. What is different however, is that based on my experience, I have more practice in resisting the temptation to believe that there is nothing to commend a perspective different from my own. There is value in both sides of the debate on tax fairness and justice but I try to distil rhetoric from fact because happily, I am not a lobby for any NGO whose survival depends on whipping up the moral indignation of their constituents.
My blog provides analysis and commentary on the issues that have been standard headlines across the world, in an effort to present a more balanced view of issues like tax fairness, avoidance, and evasion; as well as the areas of overlap with international trade as typified when the World Trade Organisation is asked to decide whether a national tax is contrary to the rules on international trade.
To the extent that bodies such as the OECD, G-20, G-8 and unfortunately to a lesser extent the UN are the main protagonists in this debate, their activities are the source of much of the analysis provided in this blog.
Finally because of the importance of trade in financial services to countries like the United States, many offshore financial centres around the world including the UK dependencies and regional economic groupings like the EU, these too are often at the heart of many blog posts.
I hope that you find this blog a good read and informative at the same time. I hope it provides you with a different perspective on an area that now sits squarely at the centre of public and private discussion of international finance, tax reform, international development, aid and good governance.
All posts are my own views entirely and, do not represent the position or policies of any organisation, government or private sector entity with which I have been or am associated. The information presented is based on material available in the public domain and each post provides links to sources used in my posts as well as further reading.
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