Senior tax officials from more than 28 countries are set to join forces at a special meeting in Paris today, to launch an international inquiry following the revelations over the past 10 days of controversial information contained in the so-called Panama Papers.
These tax officials are uniting to formally analyse the information contained in the 11.5 million documents, in response to mounting global concern about its implications with respect to efforts to contain tax evasion.
In a separate development, the offices of the Panama law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers revelations were raided by Panamanian police late on Tuesday, under orders, according to published reports, of the country’s attorney general.
Both today’s meeting and yesterday’s raid on the Mossack Fonseca’s follow the organised revelation of the Panama Papers documents that began on 3 April, when, as reported, the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shared them with some 107 media organisations in 78 countries around the world.
The meeting in Paris today is being led- by the Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration (JITSIC) network, which has 46 members from across the globe, and which is headed up by JITSIC’s outspoken chairman, Chris Jordan. Jordan is also Australia’s tax commissioner.
The meeting in Paris will be chaired by the Australian tax office’s head of international tax, Mark Konza, according to reports. In the first few days after the news of the Mossack Fonseca documents was released, Australia’s Tax Office announced plans to investigate more than 800 of the law firm’s high-net-worth Australian clients.
The UK’s HM Revenue & Customs is also understood to be among the tax bodies scheduled to be sending delegates to the hastily-assembled Paris conference.
In Australia, Jordan has established a reputation for being direct. He has previously stated that he is committed to establishing a “global mindset for tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance”.
“The best outcomes for our countries and the international tax system will be achieved by working together,” he was quoted as saying.
“The new network is a growing assembly of FTA members with a global mind-set for tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. The Network is an avenue for sharing, learning and taking coordinated cross-border compliance action.”
The JITSIC Network is open to all members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development’s Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) and operates through a single point of contact in each country, according to its website. It is supported by the FTA secretariat based at the OECD.
JITSIC was originally established in 2004 to combat cross-border tax avoidance, and was re-established in 2014 with many new members from across the FTA.
Post-paper release fall-out
Although most experts acknowledge that the full extent of the release of the Panama Papers documents won’t be known for years, there’ve been numerous immediate repercussions, including, last week, the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister, after it emerged that he had connections to an offshore company.
UK prime minister David Cameron also came under pressure after it was disclosed that he had invested in an investment fund set up by his father in Panama.
The French government, meanwhile, returned Panama to its official tax haven ‘blacklist’ in the wake of the Mossack Fonseca revelations. It had removed Panama from the list in 2012.