Tax, Poverty and The Global Elite

  • October 22, 2012 · 7:00 PM
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Jeremy Corbyn MP has agreed to host a meeting in the House of Commons on “Tax, Poverty and The Global Elite.”

For this meeting we would like to look a global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.

At the same time there is growing evidence that poverty is increasing and that the gap between to richest and poorest segments of society is growing. What should be done and what can be? Speaking at this meeting will be,

Jeremy Corbyn MP has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North since 1983. Recently together with Caroline Lucas MP, he tabled an Early Day Motion on the General anti-tax avoidance principle, which called on the government to legislate for a principle that any financial arrangements made by a company or individual should not have as their primary purpose the avoidance of tax.

John Christensen, director of the International Secretariat of the Tax Justice Network. TJN is an independent organisation launched in the British Houses of Parliament in March 2003. It is dedicated to high-level research, analysis and advocacy in the field of tax and regulation. They work to map, analyse and explain the role of taxation and the harmful impacts of tax evasion, tax avoidance, tax competition and tax havens. Their objective is to encourage reform at the global and national levels. They are not aligned to any political party.

Prem Sikka is professor of accounting, Essex Business School. Few in the accounting world don’t have a view on Prem Sikka. The outspoken professor of accounting is a voice of dissent within the profession, and routinely rages against perceived injustices. But his blog, on The Guardian’s website, reaches an audience seldom addressed by traditional accounting media – the general public. Read some of his comments at

Auditors must be held to account here .. and

Squeezing ordinary people's finances always leads to disaster here … and

Three years after UK’s banking crisis, will reforms deliver here ..

At this meeting we hope to look at how imperative it is that the UK's political and business culture changes so that rich individuals and corporations treat tax avoidance as taboo. It is also crucial that the culture at HMRC changes so that it clamps down on tax avoidance. If this were the norm, then could the UK raise sufficient income to protect the services currently under threat from cuts, set an international standard for tax justice, and make progress towards achieving equality in the UK and around the world.

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  • Derek G.

    Poverty ???? People will have to sort out their own problems !! It doesn't take a PhD or low even a grade GCSE pass to know that if you can't feed your kids then don't have them in the first place !

    2 · October 11, 2012

    • Antonia Z.

      Derek, I enjoyed meeting you. You are an intelligent man and so must know what you say is nonsense? Yes, there is population verses resource problem ... not just money but natural resource. However, there is much research suggesting that in poverty or other human threat people have more not less children. Natural survival instinct of a species to fight for its survival. Also, the economy has and is making and keeping many people jobless and tearing small enterprises apart

      November 7, 2012

    • Antonia Z.

      In an ideal world we would all have jobs. In an ideal world company cost cuts would not automatically mean job losses and more machines doing jobs humans once did. Public service cuts mean more nurses and teachers and other vital jobs are cut and more people are poor. Poverty, for most sane people, is not a choice. Also, when a woman is raped or a parent finds themselves sole guardian of a child or children in reduced circumstance are they meant to terminate the child or leave infants alone while they work, if they can find work? Rant over :)

      November 7, 2012

  • Phil S.

    The bad news is that without a global paradigm shift we are likely to get more of the same short-termism and the energy being expended to resolve these issues by tinkering around the edges might be time and effort utterly wasted. More-of-the-same short term stop-gap thinking won’t simply mean more-of the-same economic decline but a far worse downward spiral into rapid social decline and the polarization of society leading to the dire consequences of violent conflict. This we are already beginning to see…

    The good news is that now could be the perfect time for that paradigm shift; a time when the whole world seems to be increasingly frustrated by politicians living in their apparent bubble of isolation which renders them unable to identify with those outside it. This time, now, when the greed of bankers and multinationals has overflowed to the extent that it's had such a catastrophic effect on the day to day lives of billions.

    Maybe, now, a new enlightenment will dawn...

    October 17, 2012

    • Phil S.

      David - this time those of us outside the power bubble can see beyond our noses and have a profound sense of inter-connectedness and inter-dependency.

      This time the people of the world have that inter-connectivity to enable a true paradigm shift away from the failure of the status quo and this time we can burst the bubble of indifference and greed with the new culture of crowds, collective concern and long-term without-national-boundar­y thinking.

      October 17, 2012

    • Antonia Z.

      Was it not Einstein who said "you cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it"? Paradigm shift is something I look towards too. I believe more people can see further than they are given credit for and understand real change is vital. Unfortunately, I also see that as more struggle to survive / thrive, the ends of their nose, or their own and family's plate, is as far as many want to see. We need action to be SMART; specific to people's daily experience, measurable where possible, achievable steps linking to cover large ground, realistic (but not pessimistic) in those steps, and timed with momentum. Awareness building has to be linked with possible action and networks and reliable information or cynicism and apathy re-root.

      November 7, 2012

  • Francis S.

    Henry love to do a meeting or an event some time on the black economy.

    November 7, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    There is a big distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance, as per the companies named during the meeting is perfectly legal. Successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, must have good reason to allow tax planning and to demand it's elimination without first debating and understanding the consequences is ill advised. Furthermore, the entire meeting stirred up blame towards the activities of large corporate entities but was completely silent on the matter of the billions lost to the country as a result of the black economy which is mainly in the hands of small and independent traders. It would be more helpful in future to have a panel with balanced and alternative views rather than blinkered opinions.

    October 22, 2012

    • Antonia Z.

      please see the response I wrote above, thank-you

      November 7, 2012

  • Antonia Z.

    (message continued from below) Henry, while I agree that hearing broader views on the panel would be good, I feel the term 'blinkered' seems a little hypocritical. I am sorry to be blunt. No, the tax in offshore accounts is not the only problem or economic injustice but to say we have not the evidence or misunderstand consequences can be seen as patronizing and demeaning. There were many in that room from diverse backgrounds, with eyes, ears and I imagine a level of understanding not only of the consequences of action, but of the consequences of inaction.

    November 7, 2012

  • Antonia Z.

    Henry, I worry about the statement 'successive governments ... must have good reason'. It sounds a little like TINA, (there is no alternative) argument, or the 'we have always done it this way' approach, the only answer to which is "How is that working out?". The answer is that it is not working, that is has not been working for those successive governments you speak of. We speak of ethical as well as legal rights and wrongs. It would be wonderful if the two were always aligned but they are not. The proof is in the eating and public service cuts in our most basic services and for voluntary bodies that now need to do more for less is part of that. So are failing SMSE; the small and independent enterprises. It does not work this way for entrepreneur for struggling parent, for young person with dreams, for low paid worker, for most people. (message continued above)

    November 7, 2012

  • David M.

    Very informative. Need to follow up conclusions with the parliamentary parties

    October 30, 2012

  • Catherine Sarah H.

    Think you will all like this video.... its how a town in Greece has set up bartering http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9y9R0v96K48

    October 24, 2012

  • Fiona W.

    I believe that England is the most highly populated country in Europe and I greatly fear the irreversible damage that would be caused to intellectual and physical structures, and especially to other species, if we allow more than net migration. Please, Lucinda, look at the website of Population Matters where you might find some convincing statistics.

    1 · October 23, 2012

    • Christopher Chan J.

      I think the causation goes the other way, you become more prosperous, then fertility rates drop. As I've mentioned before, if you increase people's opportunities there are more interesting things to do than look after children so people have less.

      1 · October 24, 2012

    • David F.

      I did not say I like the Chinese approach Chris. In general prosperity does drive birth rates down, it also increases longevity so that population rises until it finds a new equilibrium. That can still produce a population that's greater than can be fed from the country's land.

      October 24, 2012

  • Senake A.

    Anka. Richard Murphy's site had some answers published this morning - see 'How to beat corporate tax avoidance and hold global capital to account – the longer version' by Tax Research UK
    http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/10/23/how-to-beat-corporate-tax-avoidance-and-hold-global-capital-to-account-the-longer-version/

    October 24, 2012

  • Senake A.

    Well said, Christopher.

    October 24, 2012

  • Fiona W.

    As there has been so much discussion about migration/immigration you might like to know that Prof Phillip Cole will be talking on 'The Ethics of Open Borders' at Conway Hall on Sunday 9 December at 11.00 - see the Conway Hall website, 'Talks and Lectures', and at the bottom go to the December calendar for further information.

    October 24, 2012

  • Anka K.

    It was good although it left me with a feeling that things are bad and there is nothing we can do to improve them.

    October 24, 2012

  • juliet s.

    I don't understand why child benefit is paid for more than 2 kids - the reproduction level. And I think it should certainly be means-tested.

    October 16, 2012

    • David F.

      'simple logic'. I agree that constructing workable policies is very difficult; and probably inconsistent with EU membership. We have quota systems for non-EU immigration so it looks possible. Bear in mind that there is emigration (eg people retiring to Spain) as well as immigration so stability is consistent with some immigration - which I agree to be desirable.

      October 23, 2012

    • David F.

      There's no space to set out the full argument on UK overpopulation but see http://www.population...­. Do you agree that population can't rise for ever? If so, how would you decide what's enough?

      October 23, 2012

  • chris c.

    Two excellent presentations from John Christensen and Prem Sikka of some of the major issues we need to get to grips with in the UK and worldwide. However there was not enough attention paid to the solutions. Jeremy Corbyn proposed another session. I propose that that session is fixed to take place before Xmas and is designed to focus on solutions and what we (GlobalNet 21) can do politically, financially and legally to implement the solutions.

    October 23, 2012

  • Ravinder P.

    Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the biggest tax avoider of them all?? Fantastic debate on corporate and government corruption!!! Thank you to the hosts for arranging this, to the guest speakers on their eye opening commentary about tax avoidance, and to members of the audience for their thought provoking questions. I look forward to the next debate!!!

    October 22, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      ...by the man in the street are illegal.

      October 23, 2012

    • David F.

      1. You can't cover everything in one meeting. 2. HMRC goes after fraud by the little man but compromises with big firms over tax. 3. Tax losses from big firms, non-doms, etc., are huge.

      October 23, 2012

  • terence f.

    A good variety of speakers possibly lacking an economist.

    October 23, 2012

  • Elis

    Thank you very much To Francis and Christina for organizing this meetup!
    Excellent organization and plenty of "positive thinking"!

    October 22, 2012

  • Phil S.

    A highly enlightening evening with fascinating and shocking insights from informed panelists followed by a lively enthusiastic discussion and requests for further meetings on the same subject

    October 22, 2012

  • Derek G.

    It would be better if the microphones were a little closer to those on the panel, or would it be poss. for each of them to wear the 'lapel'type ?

    October 22, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Derek, spoken like a true middle-aged, middle-class white man.

    2 · October 11, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      Simply because I was replying to Derek's comment in kind.

      1 · October 12, 2012

    • Alan

      I think the epithet 'bigot' will do for Mr Gregory

      October 22, 2012

  • Alan

    This meeting is about the billionaires and capitalists who never do a days real work and who are squirrelling away trillions of pounds of money and avoiding paying tax on it, while billions of people who generally do the hardest work in the world live in conditions that would crush us in the west - no toilets or safe drinking water, hunger, starvation, appalling work conditions, no health and safety, little access to healthcare or education, corrupt governments, unjust criminal justice systems, dictatorships, lack of human rights, religious fundamentalism, terrorism and war, sexism.. and so many of you are blithering on about lifestyle issues and blaming the poor for this terrible situation. This group is supposed to be about progressive solutions to world injustices and problems, yet it seems to be a forum for ill-informed and bigoted comment. And why haven't half of you apparently paid your subs yet? Why should you expect an end to tax avoidance if you won't stump up a tenner?

    2 · October 22, 2012

  • Fiona W.

    It wouldn't be such a problem for either parent or state is there were only two children involved.

    As to knowing how much NHS treatment cost, I'm afraid some people would boast about the amount that had been spent on them instead of realising that their unhealthy lifestyle needed to be changed.

    1 · October 16, 2012

    • Christopher Chan J.

      what would happen to the vouchers in the first idea if I was healthy? Do they save up and turn into a pension?

      October 16, 2012

    • A former member
      A former member

      You wouldn't qualify for a voucher unless you have need for hospital referral/treatment. We would retain NHS doctor surgeries but once referred from there vouchers would kick in.

      October 21, 2012

  • Senake A.

    It's great that you have voiced the idea. We would need to do some research and calculations to determine what weight of water/potential energy could be captured over the surface area of a roof over a typical week. Most commercial hydroelectric power stations use the whole of the surrounding mountainous landscape to collect their water. The streams feed into a river which is then dammed and collected in the lake that is created. Putting turbines in the main sewers that are fed from multiple street drains and buildings might be a good idea.

    October 18, 2012

    • Christopher Chan J.

      Ha :) I know there are hydroelectric dams. I mean would it work at a small scale.

      October 19, 2012

    • Christopher Chan J.

      I did some numbers on this and for a 9mx9m roof (mine) last summer you could catch 16,200lts. At a height of 5m 16200 kg has a potential of[masked] joules. Which sounds impressive until I worked out that's only[masked] Kwh (average annual family use is 3000kwh) so maybe this is a red herring.

      October 19, 2012

  • Senake A.

    That is true. There are a lot of technological and commercial barriers. I actually set up and ran a production line machinery company back in the early 1990's and have an engineering background so I do know how difficult it is to develop solutions. I think wind is more maker-friendly than solar, that crowd funding could help achieve the volumes to bring down price and that 3D print is fast moving on from just prototyping. See http://www.mcortechnologies.com/ - this 'paper cutting' 3D printer produces very strong, full colour objects at high speed. The price just needs to come down with volume and/or it needs to be community, not individually owned.

    October 18, 2012

    • Christopher Chan J.

      this is a bit off topic but are there any rain based power generation ideas? I'm thinking waterwheel in you gutter type things? We may not have the bes climate for solar but..... (plus you can store rain on your roof)

      October 18, 2012

  • Senake A.

    I do have my own ideas on how to fast track some of these technologies, so am just looking for funding and partners right now.

    October 18, 2012

  • Senake A.

    Thanks for the pointer - yes, it is exactly that, but with less time having to be spent producing by consumers. This would mean that there is more time available for innovating, educating and exploration (of the space, undersea, underground and microscopic worlds) - to generate an even higher standard of living. With the maker movement progressing at it's current pace, I think we are 5 to 15 years away. We need to reverse the marginalization of natural resource first with a Compopoly.

    October 18, 2012

    • David F.

      There's a natural tendency for enthusiasts to over-estimate the pace of fundamental change. Bob Heinlein made this point 50 years ago. At present solar PV is viable only because of subsidy, 3D printing viable only in very special cases. I'd say[masked] years - but I'm an aging cynic.

      October 18, 2012

  • Senake A.

    David, in communities where subsistence farmers have had large families, the attitude has tended to be that the children (1) will be productive - undertaking the the manual labour tasks from an early age to provide food for a hand to mouth existence. (2) provide a pension to provide food when they grow too old to undertake farming tasks (3) insurance so that they can work when others in the family are ill. The lack of contraception or attitudes towards it's use were also a contributory factor. With automated, consumer owned food and energy production equipment that has a high degree of automation - similar to a washing machine or dishwasher - the consumer no longer needs lots of children to guarantee a basic food supply.

    October 17, 2012

    • Senake A.

      I think we do agree. The point that I think it is hard for people in general to grasp is that in much the same way that the wealthy live off their investments, if an individual or family unit could buy &/or build automation to make them self sufficient, then they wouldn't have to go out and earn money. The automation (aquaponic food growing, wind/solar energy generating, 3D product printing and other technologies) would fulfil their needs and be their safety net. Money is still required to obtain products that their home automation doesn't produce and to gain access to the widest choice of education and other opportunities, but this is rapidly changing with emerging web powered business models.

      October 17, 2012

    • David F.

      This sounds like Toffler's idea of the 'prosumer' - many years ago. What's the timescale?

      October 17, 2012

  • Senake A.

    David - you're right that we should aim for sustainability on a personal level as well as a global one. That way, the population should become self regulating. If a person owns food growing (aquaponics), energy generating (wind/solar) and other equipment to partially or fully satisfy their family's needs, then thay would be incentivised to only have the number of children that their equipment could provide for. IMHO, self sufficiency should be a second step as the technology is not quite there yet. The first step should be getting the prices of food, energy, finance, rents and whatever else we need under control. My solution is a consumer controlled buying monopoly - you can read about it in my book, COMPOPOLY - available as an ebook or paperback via amazon.com or lulu.com.

    October 17, 2012

    • David F.

      I don't think that works Senake. In many parts of the world many people are subsistence farmers yet have many children. I don't see why a hitech version of subsistence would reduce family size more than current arrangements unless people were unable to buy food and energy.

      October 17, 2012

    • Catherine Sarah H.

      I am involved with people who are looking at doing things in this way across many countries

      October 17, 2012

  • juliet s.

    I am entirely with Fiona on Richard's book - he and I were discussing this stuff while at University together back in the 60s. Sadly, he has now died; but the book is a great monument.

    October 17, 2012

  • juliet s.

    I am fully in agreement with the last two contributions. Basing everything we do on the notion that Growth is Good and we must have it at all costs has proved an atrocious way of going about politics and economics. Now would be the perfect time for a paradigm shift if only the public (and even the politicians) could be persuaded of what they seems to be unable to see, or to face, that the old one has died, leaving an unholy mess behind.

    October 17, 2012

    • Fiona W.

      I was so impressed with Richard J Douthwaites book,

      October 17, 2012

    • Fiona W.

      Sorry, scrap the last effort. I was so impressed with Richard J Douthwaite's book, published in 1992, I gave it as a Christmas present: 'The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth has Enrighed the Few, Impoverished the many and Endangered the Planet' (Lilliput, Dublin). A pity so few people were listening to him!

      October 17, 2012

  • Terence B.

    This looks most interesting, but unfortunately I have an unavoidable prior commitment that evening so will not be able to come.

    October 16, 2012

  • Jonathan W.

    Populations dynamics may be a little more complex that they first seem.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/population-paradox-europes-time-bomb-888030.html

    October 16, 2012

  • Fiona W.

    Terence Freedman might be interested to read information about overpopulation on the Population Matters website; and Population Media in the USA collects articles from around the world.

    October 16, 2012

  • Fiona W.

    One problem with Juliet Solomon's suggestion is that means-tested benefits are much more complicated and expensive to adminster than universal ones. It should be made very clear to fertile couples what they can expect by way of benefits (i.e. by education); and bona fide immigrants to the UK should also know that they will only be paid for the first two children they bring into the country, unless they are accepted assylum seekers who already have children.

    October 16, 2012

  • Christopher Chan J.

    Whether you are right or wrong Derek we can't exactly put the kids that have been born back in again. There would be a fuss. On a different note, what do we think about giving people a bill for NHS treatment? Not so they pay it, just so they can see how much it costs. NHS appreciation would soar.

    1 · October 11, 2012

    • Christopher Chan J.

      also the biggest tax avoiders will all have private healthcare and this would give an excuse not to pay tax as they could say "I get no benefit"

      October 11, 2012

    • David F.

      Lots of people have private healthcare but use the NHS as well. I like the idea as I think it would increase appreciation and make for a more informed debate about the NHS.

      October 16, 2012

  • Senake A.

    I recently watched the brilliant film 'Seven Pounds' about someone who having lost the will to live, decided to donate their possessions and vital organs to recipient that they validated as good and deserving.

    Would you be more motivated to pay taxes as an employee (income tax), shareholder (corporation tax on your shareholdings) and consumer (VAT) if the amounts were visible in an online account and you could allocate them as you thought best? If so, at what level would you be willing to spend time doing this? (1) Broad brush - education / health / etc. - with actual spend managed by national government, local government and suppliers or; (2) Precisely - where you choose specifically who gets the money and for what activity it is used - based on a 'crowd funding type' pitch?

    October 12, 2012

  • Senake A.

    I actually like Christopher's idea - transparency always helps because people can see what problems need to be solved, who is solving them, what they're being paid - others who can provide better or more efficient solutions can then put them forward. Where the system falls over is that it is control is biased towards established big, profiteering, innovation blocking suppliers. With a buying monopoly - as advocated in my book, Compopoly - we can all get a better deal now. After that, we should be aiming towards creating infrastructure that - we, not just suppliers and shareholders - own to deliver us the food, energy, healthcare and other things that we need...

    1 · October 11, 2012

  • Catherine Sarah H.

    derek many who are working long hours cant afford to feed there children

    1 · October 11, 2012

  • Fiona W.

    Very sorry not to be there, especially as Jeremy is my MP, but I have a rehearsal that I can't miss. I'm sure it will be a stimulating debate.
    Isn't one of the current problems for the southern European states
    that so many people avoid paying their taxes? I once had a friend in Tuscany who called himself a fascist and was proud of being the only person he knew who paid his tax!

    September 12, 2012

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