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G20 summit: Tax evasion, global economy top agenda

Last Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 17:54

Moscow: Tax evasion and splits over the state of the global economy as emerging markets slow down are the main subjects for a meeting of G20 countries.

Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 top advanced and emerging nations will meet in Moscow for two days from Friday for their third gathering this year, to prepare for a G20 summit at the beginning of September in Saint-Petersburg.

The summit will focus on progress over cooperation against tax evasion and on regulating finance.

One government source, who declined to be named, commented that the priority was "to make headway towards greater transparency, towards stronger action against countries with uncooperative legal systems."

At the last G20 meeting in Washington in April, a joint statement called for international cooperation to attack banking secrecy.

The task of organising this was given to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the policy research centre and forum for advanced democracies.

The OECD is to report on its work to the G20 Friday.

A key objective is to tackle techniques of what is known as tax optimisation, meaning accounting arrangements used by multinational businesses to minimise their tax bills.

Among companies which have been in the spotlight recently for using legal, but controversial, methods of booking profits in low-tax countries are US giants Google, Amazon and Starbucks.

At the OECD, the head of the tax policy and administration unit Pascal Saint-Amans said: "There is a good consensus within the G20."

So-called tax havens may be used for tax evasion, which is illegal, or avoidance which may be legal but can be highly controversial.

The issue has become a hot subject, particularly in countries where austerity measures are associated with tax increases and high unemployment.

The role havens play has been highlighted this year by the "Offshore Leaks", a series of revelations about assets lodged in tax havens by high-profile people.

"The techniques of tax evasion and tax havens are the top target for governments and the ministers are going to want to be sure that it is being treated as such," in the run-up to the summit in September, economist Chris Weafer at consultants Macro Advisory told AFP.

The tax issue is also a chance for the G20 countries to speak with one voice at a time when they are divided over the state of the world economy.

Weafer observed that "we could well see a split" between rich countries and emerging economies on this.


First Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 17:54
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