Time for openness: our comment on the Anti-Corruption Summit

By May 11, 2016News

Tomorrow, 12th May, the UK will host a timely Anti-Corruption Summit that will seek to nudge the world toward much needed improvements in corporate transparency. The Summit provides a fantastic opportunity for world leaders to mandate much needed openness on who the beneficial owners of companies are, especially in tax havens.

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Fair Tax Mark businesses prove openness is possible

Transparency on beneficial ownership is an integral part of the Fair Tax Mark accreditation process; to win the Mark, businesses are required to be transparent on who owns all shareholdings of more than 10% in the company.

It is significant and welcome that the UK has taken a leadership position and will be one of the first countries in the world to operate a central public register of company ownership from June 2016 – albeit at the higher threshold of 25% stake. However, Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies have yet to follow the UK example and adopt comparable public measures. This seriously undermines the UK’s efforts given the Panama Papers revealed that more than half the 200,000 offshore companies set up by the Mossack Fonseca law firm were registered in British Overseas Territories.

Our open letter in the Guardian calls for further action

A number of Fair Tax Mark certified businesses have co-signed an open letter calling on the Prime Minister to take further action on public beneficial ownership registers at the forthcoming Anti-Corruption Summit – which would do so much to tackle the corruption and tax avoidance connected with anonymous corporations.

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The businesses state: “Businesses must increasingly demonstrate that they are open and transparent about their tax affairs, and pay the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place. Clarity on beneficial ownership is crucial to this, and would level the playing-field for responsible business practice.”

Paul Monaghan, a co-founder of the Fair Tax Mark commented: “Once again, Fair Tax Mark businesses are not just leading the way when it comes to putting their own house in order, but are front and centre lobbying for good. In this, they are acting in perfect tune with the UK public, the vast majority of whom (85%) believe that both UK and offshore companies should have to reveal their real owners. The polling, from Global Witness and Oxfam, found that a similar number (80%) believe that David Cameron has a moral duty to ensure the UK’s Overseas Territories are as transparent as possible”.

See the Fair Tax Mark letter to the Guardian here.
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