John Christensen, founder of the Tax Justice Network, and Simon Clark of Bloomberg had a fascinating and illuminating 'in discussion' on tax havens, transfer pricing, Nick Shaxson's book (which Christensen co-authored) Treasure Islands, where profits should be taxed and where value really is added, and whether there is a positive role for offshoring.
John argued that current international and national tax regimes are regressive, with the poor bearing more of hte burden than the rich. Internationally, he and TJN called for companies to be taxed in the country where they actually make their profits, with full country-by-country reporting to achieve that. This may not be as unrealistic as it sounds, even if the owners of capital are likely to resist. Encouragingly, the US recently enacted legislation forcing all extractive industries to disclose country by country reporting from 2013. However, John added that without international co-operation and a genuine commitment to transparency, it would be difficult to achieve.
Asked whether tax havens served a useful purpose by allowing capital to be distributed more effectively across the globe, John argued strongly that they did not. He argued that they were not necessary to attract investment to developing economies, and he argued that whilst it was perfectly valid to avoid double-taxation, tax havens enabled double non-taxation. He also noted that many of them were in former British colonies or protectorates.
One member of the audience noted that there was a lot of mis-information in debates of tax havens and offshoring. Tax havens have been adopted by many of the major NGOs and the Occupy St Paul's protesters, and any interested in finding out more were encouraged to read the briefings on the Tax Justice website.