A worldwide crackdown on tax havens, from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands, will be spearheaded by Gordon Brown as the world’s richest nations use the global economic downturn to close loopholes that are costing them hundreds of billions in lost revenues.
As he embarks on a mini-tour of EU capitals in advance of the G20 summit in London in April, the prime minister announced yesterday that he was negotiating with fellow world leaders the terms of a tough regulatory system on tax and banking that will cover every country.
Speaking at his monthly press conference in Downing Street, Brown said: “We want the whole of the world to take action. That will mean action against regulatory and tax havens in parts of the world which have escaped the regulatory attention they need. The changes we make will have to apply to all jurisdictions around the world.”
The global crackdown envisaged by Brown follows the Guardian’s special series, the Tax Gap, which highlighted the ways a range of Britain’s biggest companies have employed secretive tax arrangements to reduce their liability. HM Revenue & Customs estimates that the size of the tax gap, which has seen companies shift ownership of brands to offshore tax havens, could be anything between £3.7bn and £13bn.
The prime minister, who will meet the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, today in Rome before a mini-summit of the four EU leaders in the G20 in Berlin on Sunday, declined to be drawn on the specifics of his plan. But the Guardian understands that he is taking a particular interest in Switzerland, while Barack Obama singled out the Cayman Islands during the US presidential election campaign.