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Leaked Pandora papers: Stop crooks setting up firms to hide wealth in tax havens – ActionAid tells FG

Following the leaked Pandora papers that have revealed yet again the extensive use of tax havens and tax secrecy by the economic and political elite in Nigeria, ActionAid Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation that has been at the forefront of fight against poverty, has called on Federal Government to step up its efforts to stamp out tax avoidance.

ActionAid said five years have passed since the Pandora papers that exposed the dodgy tax dealings of a Panama-based law firm and its clients and eight years since the G20 mandated the BEEPS process, intended to end tax avoidance satisfy people’s demand for tax justice and fairness.

In a statement signed and made available to Journalists in Lokoja, ActionAid pointed out that “Billionaires increased their wealth by US$3.9tn in the first year of the pandemic, while global workers lost earnings of US$3.7tn. With inequality still rising, exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, states need fair and progressive tax rules more than ever”.

Julia Sánchez, secretary general of ActionAid International, said: “It is totally unacceptable for governments to claim they can’t afford healthcare, quality education or a green transition away from polluting fossil fuels, when they are allowing such vast resources to be looted by wealthy elite and corrupt politicians. These dodgy practices are facilitated by banks and the financial sector which serve as the guardians of secrecy in tax havens.

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“The Pandora Papers are set to expose further tax scandals, featuring decision-makers using shoddy tax havens, and more loopholes in tax legislation that politicians will pretend are mistakes to be rectified, rather than there by design. This highlights more than ever the need for serious action on tax justice, including improved tax transparency.”

Ene Obi, country director, ActionAid Nigeria, noted that “From Nigeria alone, it is estimated that in the last 3 decades, 179 million pounds was carted out of the country to offshore accounts. Part of this wealth was used to purchase 233 properties in the United Kingdom. Not only does 179 million represent wealth that would have potentially been taxed in Nigeria, but it represents the much-needed capital that Nigeria lost to offshore accounts. What is even more worrisome is that the Pandora papers exposed that it is the most influential Nigerians and government officials that have been at the forefront of this capital flights.”

ActionAid therefore, called for public registers of beneficial ownership, in all jurisdictions, accounts and entities, to stop crooks setting up companies to hide wealth in tax havens. It must be made mandatory for countries to exchange vital information to help stop this damaging practice. Public country-by-country reporting of corporate tax payments and key financial data would help improve transparency and reduce the secrecy that allows these loopholes. A global minimum corporate tax rate of 25percent would also be an effective way of stopping potential tax revenue being hidden in tax havens.

Sánchez further pointed out that “The Panama Papers, LuxLeaks and now the Pandora Papers are just the tip of a tax dodging iceberg. If we are to avoid the fate of the Titanic, we must change course now and demand tax justice once and for all.”

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