A year the tide turned in the fight for tax justice

As 2021 draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to reflect upon the tax justice highlights of 2021, and – amidst the continuing pressures of the pandemic – some significant progress. The year 2021 opened its doors to the inauguration of US President Joe Biden. For good or ill, the tone of […]

A year the tide turned in the   fight for tax justice

As 2021 draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to reflect upon the tax justice highlights of 2021, and – amidst the continuing pressures of the pandemic – some significant progress.

The year 2021 opened its doors to the inauguration of US President Joe Biden. For good or ill, the tone of US politics exerts a distinct influence on international developments. The rhetorical switch alone was important, from Trump (not paying tax ‘makes me smart’), to the channelling of tax justice from both Biden (I will ‘lead efforts internationally to… go after illicit tax havens’) and new Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (‘We’ve had a global race to the bottom in corporate taxation and we hope to put an end to that’).

The Biden administration gave important momentum to the stalled OECD tax reforms, but arguably the biggest shifts of the year took place elsewhere. This includes both substantial steps at the United Nations, and an unprecedented degree of international engagement from lower-income countries – including in response to the threats of the OECD process. The inequalities and fiscal challenges of the evolving pandemic have ensured political attention worldwide, further driven by the explosive Pandora Papers which became the biggest ever leak of data from offshore service providers – and included major US operations for the first time.

The Tax Justice Network continued to combine international advocacy and networked campaigning with far-reaching communications and incisive research. Flagship publications in 2021 included the State of Tax Justice and the Corporate Tax Haven Index, while our workstreams contributed in a range of substantive areas. Here are some highlights and achievements from 2021 that stand out.  

The UN FACTI Panel Report

In February 2021, the UN High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (the FACTI panel) published its year-long study into the impact of tax abuse, money laundering and illicit financial flows on the ability of states to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Launched by a group including former heads of state and ministers from around the world, the report built on detailed analysis and engagement with UN member states in every global region. From the perspective of two decades of struggle by the tax justice movement, the recommendations were nothing short of remarkable.

The FACTI report called for powerful, specific policies to be implemented, in respect of both tax transparency and international tax rules. It also envisaged sweeping reforms to the global architecture. In each area, a raft of tax justice proposals were adopted. As our CEO Alex Cobham put it, the report was a “global triumph” for the tax justice movement.

The report called for the adoption of tax justice measures and policies many of our readers will be familiar with: automatic exchange of information, beneficial ownership registration, country by country reporting, unitary taxation and a global minimum tax rate.

But perhaps the most important recommendation the report made was to move rule-making on global tax rules from the OECD, a small club of rich countries, where rule-making has sat for six decades, to a UN setting.

The central element of this proposal was the creation of a UN tax convention, to be negotiated on an inclusive basis and to set rigorous standards for the global exchange of information and for tax cooperation. Second, was the establishment of an intergovernmental body under UN auspices, to oversee the setting of international tax rules. And while these have long been advocated by the tax justice movement, the third is a relatively new proposal: a Centre for Monitoring Tax Rights, first proposed in 2019 our CEO Alex Cobham’s book The Uncounted, to collate, analyse and publish data on the extent of international tax abuse affecting (and facilitated by) each individual country and jurisdiction.

In his blog about the UN FACTI panel’s report, Alex wrote that the report “may come to be seen as a pivotal moment in the world’s fight against illicit finance and tax abuse.”

In April, the UN tax committee demonstrated that despite its low level of resourcing, it was capable of delivering relatively rapid and concrete progress. Specifically, the committee finalised revisions to the UN model tax treaty, to include a new Article 12B which deals specifically with the digital tax issues that the OECD had been struggling with for a number of years.

Then in the new UN General Assembly session, the G77 group – representing the majority of the world’s people and 134 countries – tabled a proposal for an intergovernmental tax body at the UN. While this was blocked for now by a number of OECD countries, the momentum is clear. The intergovernmental South Centre followed by publishing a specific proposal for UN framework convention on tax, which lays out a path forward.

G7 nations agreed a global minimum tax rate on multinationals

In June of this year, the G7 reached an historic agreement to start the end of the ‘race to the bottom’ by implementing a global minimum corporate tax rate on multinational corporations. By October, the top lines of a broader deal were agreed in principle at the OECD ‘Inclusive Framework’. As things stand, in line with the process agreed at the outset in January 2019, the deal introduces a minimum rate (albeit limited to 15 per cent), and also introduces an element of unitary taxation with formulary apportionment (albeit only for a small part of the profits of just 100 or so multinationals).

Caveats aside, this is historic in establishing two important tax justice principles: that a line must be drawn under the race to the bottom, and that multinationals should be taxed according to where they actually do business. But the caveats are huge.

The October 2021 Inclusive Framework statement was signed by 119 countries and some dependent territories, but four countries with a population of around half a billion people rejected it: Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They, and (potentially many) others which signed under pressure, view the proposals as likely to cost them revenue and sovereignty – not least because unilateral measures including digital services taxes (DSTs) would be required to be eliminated, and countries would have to accept some binding dispute resolution mechanism.

Another key issue is that the design of the minimum tax gives such a disproportionate share of revenues to richest economies, that it might become impossible to renegotiate in future. At least until the design, signature, ratification and operation of two new multilateral instruments, the proposals allow (OECD) headquarter countries first priority on collecting un(der)paid tax – even when the unpaid tax was originally lost from another, non-OECD country. Moreover, by setting the global minimum rate so low at 15 per cent, at the instigation of Ireland and other tax havens, plenty of room was left to incentivise multinational corporations to keep profit shifting and underpaying taxes. Our analysis showed that settling for anything less than a 25 per cent tax rate keeps the race to the bottom alive and kicking.

The alternative METR (Minimum Effective Tax Rate) research we supported, offered a more balanced and more effective alternative. Under the METR proposal, multinational corporations would be required to pay corporate tax in the countries where they do genuine business activity. That means they pay corporate tax in the countries where they have sales, employ workers and own assets. This approach would see OECD countries collect a more proportional share of recovered tax. Even at the low rate of 15%, lower income countries, where half the world’s population lives, would see the amount of corporate tax they recover almost triple from $7.7bn under the OECD proposal to $22.3bn under the METR proposal. That $22.3bn would be equivalent to a little over a quarter of lower income countries’ combined public health budgets.

Our analysis of the G7 global tax deal was widely covered in media and press. Over 1 in 10 articles read around the world on Monday 7 June 2021 about the G7’s global tax deal announcement quoted the Tax Justice Network. Through this wide global coverage, we were able to raise the alarm about the unfair and ineffective implementation of the global minimum tax deal and help make sure a handful of the richest countries wouldn’t pull the wool over the rest of the world’s eyes. While a number of politicians and media outlets tried to present the deal as the fix to all the world’s tax abuse problems, we made it clear that the fight for a balanced and effective global minimum tax rate is just beginning.

As 2021 closes, the OECD is working on the multilateral instruments which would make the deal binding on individual countries. But countries all around the world are now actively discussing their options. For one thing, they have been provided with no assessment – either public or private – of whether the proposed deal would provide substantial benefits in revenue terms, to offset the known losses of revenue and sovereignty. And as the political engagement and scrutiny grows, it is not clear that governments will retain the appetite to make their informal commitments into binding ones, by signing what is effectively a blank cheque.

So 2022 is likely to be a decisive year for the OECD tax reforms – and perhaps also for the global tax architecture. The G20, under the presidency of Indonesia, may wish to ask the OECD to reopen the process if widespread rejection becomes more likely – and perhaps bring in some element of expertise from the UN system to support the OECD secretariat, as much to signal inclusivity as to add technical capacity.

But options to develop at the UN are now increasingly attractive to countries whose interests have clearly not been included in the OECD deal, and also to some OECD members who will not gain substantial revenues either, nor see the effective action against profit shifting that the process once promised. With the new German government committed to support global inclusion in tax matters, there may be scope for new coalitions that cut across the OECD and could deliver major reform.

The Corporate Tax Haven index 2021

In March we updated our ranking of countries most complicit in helping multinational corporations underpay tax. Ranking at the top of the 2021 edition of the Corporate Tax Haven Index are:

  1. British Virgin Islands (British Overseas Territory)
  2. Cayman Islands (British Overseas Territory)
  3. Bermuda (British Overseas Territory)
  4. Netherlands
  5. Switzerland
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Hong Kong
  8. Jersey (British Crown Dependency)
  9. Singapore
  10. United Arab Emirates

The Corporate Tax Haven Index ranks each country based on how intensely the country’s tax and financial systems allow multinational corporations to shift profit out of the countries where they do business and consequently pay less tax than they should there.

The Corporate Tax Haven Index showed that OECD countries and their dependencies were responsible for over two-thirds of the world’s corporate tax abuse ricks. In other words, those setting global corporate tax rules are the ones most helping multinational corporations get around them.

These findings rightly spurred a big uproar about the role of the OECD in setting global tax rules and the need to move rule-making the UN, as proposed by the UN FACTI panel. As Dr Dereje Alemayehu, executive coordinator of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, put it at the time, “to trust the OECD in light of the index’s findings today is like trusting a pack of wolves to build a fence around your chicken coop.”

The State of Tax Justice 2021

We launched the second edition of our State of Tax Justice report in November, again publishing jointly with the Global Alliance for Tax Justice and with Public Services International.  The report found that countries are losing a total of $483 billion in tax a year to global tax abuse committed by multinational corporations and wealthy individuals – enough to fully vaccinate the global population against Covid-19 more than three times over.

Confirming the findings of the Corporate Tax Haven Index 2021, the 2021 edition of the State of Tax Justice documented how a small club of rich OECD countries is responsible for the majority of tax losses suffered by the rest of the world, with lower income countries hit the hardest by global tax abuse. The findings coincided with the G77’s proposal for an intergovernmental tax body at the UN, and helped to further galvanise these calls.

Of the $483 billion lost a year, the report found that $312 billion of this tax loss is due to cross-border corporate tax abuse by multinational corporations and $171 billion is due to offshore tax abuse by wealthy individuals. Like last year, the State of Tax Justice also found that global tax abuse continues to hit lower income countries more severely than higher income countries. While higher income countries lose more tax in absolute number, their tax losses represent a smaller share of their revenues (9.7 per cent of their collective public health budgets). Lower income countries in comparison collectively lose the equivalent of nearly half (48 per cent) of their public health budgets. The taxes that lower income countries lose would be enough to vaccinate 60 per cent of their populations, bridging the gap in vaccination rates between lower income and higher income countries.

The State of Tax Justice 2021 was featured in over 300 media articles in 47 countries, in every region of the world.

Country by country reporting

In July 2021, the OECD made available the second round of data from country by country reporting. This is data on the geographic distribution of multinational corporations’ activity, profits and tax, according to an OECD standard which is based on the original proposals put forward by the Tax Justice Network nearly twenty years ago and for which we have since campaigned. However, the data self-reported by multinationals and published by the OECD was aggregated and anonymised before it was made available. So while we can see that multinational corporations are not paying $312 billion worth of tax each year, we can’t see which multinational corporations are not paying the tax.

That’s why we designed the standard for specifically public reporting, and why the leading global setter of sustainability standards, the Global Reporting Initiative, has now introduced a technically robust standard to require the same. This has been the first full year of reporting under the GRI standard, and a growing number of leading companies have voluntarily adopted it.

This year also saw important steps forwards towards mandatory public country by country reporting. The EU parliament passed public country by country reporting measures in the summer, although with some significant defanging. The EU parliament required multinational corporations to publish country by country reporting data on the OECD standard, and only for EU countries (and a handful of small jurisdictions questionably deemed ‘non-cooperative’), instead of all countries they operate in. This does though break the taboo over requiring any publication of this data. The EU showed everyone that even a corporate giant can disclose, and set the path for any other country to require publication.

The US Congress also legislated for public country by country reporting, and went beyond the EU by requiring full disclosure for every country. In 2022, we will see whether the Senate confirms the measures, and/or if it is introduced by direct action of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Pandora Papers leak

In October, the ICIJ revealed the biggest offshore leak since the Panama Papers in 2016. The Pandora Papers document 14 offshore professional service providers, and the way in which a mass of politicians, public officials and celebrities have utilised the offshore system to hide the true value of their wealth, and in some cases pay less tax than they owe.

We became a go-to resource for the media following the Pandora Papers, and within the first 4 days of the leak being published our commentary was featured in over 600 articles, including many references to the State of Tax Justice and our Financial Secrecy Index.

Tax Justice and Human Rights

Collaboration and connection continued to augment our work in exploring the linkages between human rights and tax justice.  We were pleased to bring to publication the report in which these underpinnings coalesce: Tax Justice and Human Rights: The 4 Rs and the realisation of rights. The report navigates through key issues and explores the pivotal role of tax in the advancement of human rights. Using data modelled by the GRADE project which in turn takes data from our State of Tax Justice Report 2020, it illustrates the powerful impact of tax abuse on the realisation of economic and social rights and on substantive gender equality. The associated launch event brought together a triumph (?) of speakers from Professor. Dorothy Brown taking us on a tour of The Whiteness of Wealth, to Andres Arauz, Ecuadorian Presidential candidate, Professor Philip Alston, Professor Attiya Waris and Professor Steven Dean. Activists and campaigners, including Bilquis Tahira, Jeannie Manipon, and Asha Ramgobin, enriched debate by bringing insights on the intersection of rights, equality and tax justice.

Our support and engagement with United Nations processes continues too. In a collaborative report with several national and regional civil society organisations, we outlined to the CEDAW Committee in March 2021 key tax justice issues which impact on the economic and social rights of women and girls. 

In November, we were especially pleased to prepare a submission for the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and other international financial obligations and human rights. Professor Attiya Waris’ call for input for the report titled, Taking stock and looking forward – A vision for the work of the mandate, offered an opportunity to encourage an analysis on these issues within the UN system. We also proposed three key interventions undertaken by the mandate: to draw out guiding principles on tax and human rights; to conduct a tax architecture survey – on the lines of the previous debt architecture survey – to canvass member states’ views; and to recognise the importance of the 4th R of tax, representation and to address the question of political inequalities in the tax system. We will enthusiastically support the mandate where and as much as we can.

John Christensen stepped down as Tax Justice Network chair

Our founding director John Christensen retired as an executive director this year, and stepped down from our board which he had chaired. When he had passed on the chief executive role in 2016, his successor and our current chief executive Alex Cobham wrote of John’s successes: “In changing the political weather on these issues, those achievements are nothing short of extraordinary.” We thank John for his powerful contribution to tax justice, and wish him all the best.

The Tax Justice Network reaching people.

Communications and media

The Tax Justice Network continued to bring tax justice issues to more people through our media and online work in 2021. Our research and commentary was featured in over 10,200 media and press articles (more than double that of 2020) in over 140 countries . Over 401,000 sessions occurred on the Tax Justice Network website in 2021 and our social media posts on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin had a combined reach of over 3,158,000.

Our podcasts (advocating for tax justice in five languages)

The Taxcast (our English language podcast) highlights of 2021: this year has seen wide ranging conversations with leading thinkers and campaigners such as Ben Phillips author of How to Fight Inequality, Tom Bergin, author of Free Lunch Thinking, how economics ruins the economy, Tax Haven Ireland authors Brian O Boyle and Kieran Allen, Lynne Segal and Andreas Chatzidakis of the Care Collective discussing the newest ideas on a caring economy, millionaire and wealth tax campaigner Djaffar Shalchi of Millionaires for Humanity, the son of Maltese murdered anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Malta as a captured state suffering from the finance curse, a two part conversation with economic anthropologist Jason Hickel on degrowth and the role of tax in the climate crisis, coinciding with COP26 in Glasgow.

The Taxcast also provided its usual ongoing analysis on subjects including progress on the minimum global corporate tax rate, Pandora Papers, the pandemic, the State of Tax Justice 2021 report, the Corporate Tax Haven Index, the Chinese economy ‘success’ versus the shareholder capitalism model key to the demise of western capitalism, what the Gamestop trading frenzy tells us about what ‘investment’ is (and isn’t), how degrowth must begin with the wealthy, tackling monopoly power, the role of finance sectors and stock exchanges in investing in environmentally destructive activities worldwide.

The Taxcast ends the year with the personal story of victims of tax haven Jersey who tell a shocking tale of impunity there. The Taxcast also put out some ‘Taxcast Extra’ podcasts in 2021 which included Professor Dorothy Brown on the Whiteness of Wealth and analysis on Hong Kong raising its stock transfer tax, just as Wall Street lobbyists managed to dodge the financial transactions taxes bullet.

Impots et Justice Sociale (French podcast) highlights of 2021 include conversations with leading thinkers and campaigners in Francophone Africa including Jean Mballa Mballa of CRADEC and Tax Justice Africa, Bernard Dongmo of PWYP-Cameroon, Professor Ibrahim Assane Mayaki and former President of Niger, Karim Daher, both FACTI panel members, Modeste Kambala of Média les Mérites d’Afrique, Burundian journalist and activist Julien Barinzingo, and Cameroonian extractives expert Michel Bissou, Lucas Millán of the Tax Justice Network, Professor of Economics Kako Nobukpo, Fiacre Kakpo, Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper Togo First, Argentinian Treasury Minister Carlos Protto, Anicet Akoa, President of the Association of Mayors of Cameroon Alamine Ousmane Mey, Minister of the Economy, Cameroon, Martin Tsounkeu, President of the African Development Interchange Network, Franck Essi, Secretary General of the Cameroon Peoples Party and leader of the Stand up for Cameroon movement, Dr Tovony Randriamanalina, expert on transfer pricing and co-author of a report on the participation of poorer countries in the negotiations on international tax agreements, Doctor Aboubakar Nacanabo, Principal Inspector of Taxes in Burkina Faso, Chairman of the ATAF technical committee on cross-border taxation and author of a document on digital taxation in the ECOWAS zone, Mustapha Ndajiwo of the African Centre for Tax and Governance, Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie of the African Capacity Building Foundation, Alex Cobham of the Tax Justice Network, Ms Djanabou Aoudou, Deputy Mayor of the town of Guider, Ebo Jean Roland: African Development and Interchange Network, Audrey Engbemine, Monitoring and evaluation expert, economic analyst, CRADEC and James Jaures Sogbossi, campaigner in Benin, plus people on the street giving their opinions on tax and financial transparency.

Among the subjects covered were extractive industries in Africa, illicit financial flows, moving to the UN as a more democratic global forum for setting tax rules, tax breaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo depriving the population of much needed revenue, analysis of a report published by the Financial Transparency Coalition and NGOs including Tax Justice Network Africa looking at how significant part of the resources spent by the countries of the South in response to Covid-19 has benefited already wealthy companies more than it has achieved social protection objectives, social and fiscal justice in Burundi, and sharing mining revenues more fairly in Cameroon, the Covid pandemic, the State of Tax Justice report 2021, the Corporate Tax Haven Index, the global minimum corporate tax rate, digital services taxes and Africa’s challenges in collecting that revenue, the lack of ownership registration in Cameroon and other African countries, the weight of international debt in Africa on citizens, the role (or lack of a role) for poorer nations in international global tax rules negotiations, how the Automatic Exchange of Tax Information can help African tax administrations fight against illicit financial flows, and analysis on how African nations can revisit international tax agreements made by the G20 and the European Union.

In Justicia ImPositiva, our Spanish podcast a particular highlight was our reporting on the historic protests and national strike in Colombia over tax justice – the first of its kind in the world – where we interviewed two of the unions central in organising, the Central Unitaria de los Trabajadores, and also the union for small and medium-sized businesses on tax reforms speaking about finding common cause with workers. We also provided analysis on the effects of the pandemic on the global economy and the Latin American region, the new movement for wealth taxes in Latin America, the Chilean constitution and the possibilities and hopes for enshrining tax rights and sweeping away Pinochet’s neoliberal legacy, international financial flows in Latin America related to the pandemic, vaccine inequality and pharmaceutical company practices, proposals in the US for corporate fiscal transparency, Corporate Tax Haven Index results, booming levels of tax abuse in Central America and the challenges of maintaining healthcare rights, the elections in Ecuador and the debate on corruption and tax haven use, the political economy of the new deal. the global minimum corporate tax rate, the new government in Peru, the bitcoin experiment in El Salvador, Brazil’s struggling health service worsened with the pandemic, the international courts that rule on corporate disputes with nation states, HSBC and drug trafficking, the Pandora Papers, the crisis of the Chinese property company Evergrande and questions over shifting global leadership and economic power today.

Interviewees included Oscar Ugarteche, professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM and author of Critical History of the IMF, Daniel Titleman, ECLAC director of economic planning, Matti Kohonen, Christian Aid, Jorge Coronado from the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice, Javier García Bernardo, Tax Justice Network, Daniel Roy of the popular blog Global World, Nicholas Luisiani of Oxfam, Mario Guzmán of the Tax Justice Network, Ricardo Martner, economist at the Independent Commission for Corporate Tax Reform, José Antonio Ocampo member of the FACTI and director of the Independent Commission for the Reform of Corporate Taxes, Abelardo Medina from the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies, Pablo Iturralde from the Centre for Economic and Social Rights of Ecuador, Susana Ruiz of Oxfam, Fabio Arias Giraldo of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, Maria Alejandra Osorio from the union of small and medium-sized companies, Carlos Bedoya, Peruvian Political Analyst and Coordinator of the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice, María Fernanda Valdes from the Ebert Foundation, Grazielle David, podcast producer and host of É da Sua Conta, Martín Guzman, Minister of Economy, Argentina, Mathew Gbonjubola, Director of Tax Policy for Nigeria, Jayati Ghosh, Commissioner of the Independent Commission for International Corporate Tax Reform and Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Dereje Alemayehu, Executive Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Professor Emeritus Sol Picciotto, Senior Advisor at the Tax Justice Network, Luis Moreno of the Latin America and the Caribbean Tax Justice Network, Juan Valerdi professor at the Universidad de la Plata and former advisor to the Central Bank of Argentina, Director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Gerard Ryle, journalist from  the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists Brenda Medina.

In the Portuguese podcast É Da Sua Conta, we covered the growing movement for wealth taxes, the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, illicit financial flows, the unfairness of the tax system for women and how to fix it with Brazil and Angola as examples, how tax abuse by multinationals reduces the ability of states to guarantee rights and end hunger, the global minimum corporate tax rate and disadvantages for some nations, vaccine apartheid and solutions through knowledge sharing and an end to intellectual property – issues which reflect inequalities on a broader scale. At the time of recording only 1.2% of the Angolan population had been vaccinated, and less than 1% of the inhabitants of Mozambique. We covered how to finance the decentralised production of vaccines for the global population though fiscal justice. We covered the urgent need to reform the tax system so that it is progressive. We also covered structural racism in Brazil’s tax system and look at how the black population is affected by an exclusionary economic and social system, and how that can be fixed, the unfairness of VAT, and the Pandora Papers. There is a regular monthly spot with analysis from Nick Shaxson of the Tax Justice Network. The podcast ended the year with incredible stories of tax collectors, with an episode called Tax Collectors: invisible heroes.

Other interviewees included Global Millionaires for Humanity, Latin American Campaign on Wealth Now, presented by the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice, Brazilian Campaigns to Tax the Super-Rich, presented by the Fiscal Justice Institute and Fenafisco, FACTI Panel member Irene Ovonji, Luis Moreno of Latindadd, Shanna Lima of the Tax Justice Network, Aurea Mouzinho, economist, Graciela Rodriguez, Instituto Equit, Liz Nelson of the Tax Justice Network, Tathiane Piscitelli of FGV Direito SP, Jaqueline Oliveira, a hot dog seller, Lucas Millan of the Tax Justice Network, Rodrigo Afonso of Ação da Cidadania, Sandra Inácio, a farmer, Tatiana Lobão, a vegan chef, Valeria Torres Burity, Fian Brasil, Didier Jacobs of Oxfam America, Márcio Verdi of the Centro Interamericano de Administrações Tributárias, Professor Emeritus Sol Picciotto of the University of Lancaster, Yasfir Ibraimo of the Institute of Social and Economic Studies, Bartolomeu Milton of the Associação Pro Bono Angola, Ben Hur Cavelane of CIP Moçambique, Felipe Carvalho from Médico Sem Fronteiras Brasil, Luciana Pioto, journalist and actress, Luiz Vieira of the Bretton Woods Project, Peter Maybarduk from Public Citizen, Wilson Farina, DJ, Débora Freire of UFMG, Matti Kohonen of the Financial Transparency Coalition, Paulo Gil Introini of the Instituto de Justiça Fiscal, Rodrigo Orair of Ipea, Clara Marinho, Roseli Faria, Flávio Batista of Faculdade Sensu, Keval Bharadia, political economist, Waleska Miguel, a political economist, Fernando Gaiger of the Instituto de Pesquisa em Economia Aplicada, José Gusmão, MEP, Maria Fernanda Valdez, economist and coordinator of FES Colombia, Andres Arauz, economist and former presidential candidate in Ecuador, Clair Hickman of the Instituto de Justiça Fiscal, Ethel Rudnitzki, a Public Agency reporter, Maria Lucia, small businesswoman, Uallace Moreira, professor of economics at the Federal University of Bahia, Hernan Arbizu, economist and former banker and Florencia Lorenzo of the Tax Justice Network.

The Arabic podcast Taxes Simply الجباية ببساطة covered current affairs on an ongoing basis related to tax and financial transparency, the economic effects of Covid-19 in the Middle East and North Africa, the most important measures for the recovery of the Arab region, a new tax law coming into force in Egypt which threatens the livelihood of approximately 3 million small taxpayers and their families, Brexit, the catastrophic fall in the currencies of Sudan, Syria and Turkey, the drop in oil prices due to weak demand, the economic situation in Jordan in light of the pandemic and its social repercussions with teachers returning to street protests, tax justice and the sustainable development goals, the Sudanese economic crisis, FACTI recommendations on combating financial flows Illegal tax evasion and money laundering, the UAE and its ranking in the Corporate Tax Haven ranking as among the ten worst offenders for facilitating corporate tax abuse, the countries obstructing vaccine production capabilities in poorer countries (including Britain), Cyprus reduced taxes on ships using clean fuels, the abolition by the Egyptian Parliament of exemptions to taxing MPs’ bonuses, amendments to capital gains and dividend tax in Egypt and their impact on the Egyptian Stock Exchange, digital taxes and how to make them fairer, the battle to implement a minimum wage in Egypt and its social and economic advantages, turbulent political situations in Libya, Lebanon and Tunisia, we covered a Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights report on the policies of the Tunisian government regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, the worsening situation of vulnerable groups and internal authorities in light of weak infrastructure and the high cost of medical treatment as a result of the decline in government spending on healthcare, the collapse of Lebanon’s currency, as well as medical and electricity sectors, and social and economic consequences, spending cuts in Kuwait, the forced return of Yemenis from Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s issuance of the first sovereign sukuk, the complexities of the Algerian banking system which is limiting remittances from expatriates abroad, controversy over proposals in Egypt to start taxing the incomes of influencers and social media content creators on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and the crisis in Sudan with record inflation rates, unemployment figures and the collapse of the value of the local currency.

Interviews include our regular commentator, tax justice and human rights specialist Norhan Sharif, accountant Mohamed Mustafa, lawyer Mustafa Al Far, Ahmed Awad of the Phoenix Centre for Economic Studies in Amman, Karim Daher, member of the United Nations High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving Agenda 2030, political economist Karim Megahed, researcher Sirin Ghannouchi, Lebanese political activist, Samer Abdullah, economic and social rights researcher Elhamy Marghani, political economist Omar Samir. 

Launch of our 101 explainer video series

We produced a series of ‘Tax Justice 101’ explainer videos. These were designed to explain key issues and policy asks of the tax justice movement in a way that was accessible, upbeat and fun. Principally targeting younger people and activists who may be new to tax justice issues, topics covered included the ‘ABC-G of tax justice’, ‘the 4 Rs of tax justice’, ‘tax justice and the care economy’ and ‘tax justice and human rights’ among others. The series was disseminated across our social media channels and through the Tax Justice Network’s regular newsletter in the final quarter of 2021, achieving broad reach and very positive feedback. We hope that the video series will enjoy a long shelf life and will serve as an important resource for both didactic purposes and introducing new audiences to these issues as we seek to build stronger links with adjacent movements such as climate justice campaigners.

The year ahead

This year saw a number of leaps forwards for tax justice, but there is much work to be done ahead. While the pandemic brought tax to the forefront of national and international debates about the link between tax and public health services, 2022 may be the year that the link between tax and human rights gains wide recognition. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will conclude its review of Ireland’s tax policy in 2022 to determine whether Ireland’s enabling of global tax abuse violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Will the review further spur the momentum we saw this year for a bigger role at the UN on global tax rules? Will it put countries’ tax sovereignty into new light? We’re looking forward to finding out.