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Human rights expert calls for a new UN body to address tax evasion and harmful tax competition around the world

NEW YORK (20 October 2016) – United Nations human rights expert Alfred de Zayas today urged the UN General Assembly in New York to establish an international Tax Body to fight tax evasion and corruption, phase-out tax havens, stop competition among tax jurisdictions and abolish secrecy.

“The United Nations must no longer tolerate the scandal of secrecy jurisdictions that facilitate tax evasion, corruption and money-laundering,” said the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order during the presentation of his new report* to the General Assembly. “Concerted action must be taken to counter criminal abuses by individuals, speculators, hedge funds and transnational enterprises who skirt taxes and loot governments.”

“Corruption, bribery, tax fraud and tax evasion have such grave effects on human welfare that they must be exposed, prosecuted and punished nationally and internationally,” Mr. de Zayas.

The expert pointed out that “every year governments lose three trillion dollars through various schemes of tax avoidance and evasion, and hitherto most perpetrators have enjoyed impunity. Yet, it is estimated that as much as thirty-two trillion dollars are held offshore in secrecy jurisdictions, escaping just taxation.”

“It is high time for the General Assembly to establish an inter-governmental tax body with a mandate to draft standards and ensure enforcement of measures against perpetrators,” he stressed noting that the UN provides the most effective way to achieve an equitable global tax system, increase domestic resource mobilization and reduce intra-State and inter-State inequality.

Highlighting that greater financial transparency and accountability will be needed to fight tax evasion and illicit financial flows and harmful tax competition, the Independent Expert called for robust actions to ensure multinationals corporations pay their fair taxes.

“Unfair taxation, widespread corruption, secrecy, collusion among lobbies and consulting firms and vested interests of domestic and transnational corporations pose systemic obstacles that deprive States from resources needed to fulfill their human rights treaty obligations,” he warned.

“Because the tax activities of domestic and transnational corporations have significant direct and indirect socio-economic impacts, a binding legal instrument on corporate social responsibility stipulating the obligation to pay taxes where the profits are generated and a prohibition to shift profits should be adopted,” Mr. de Zayas concluded.

(*) Check the Independent Expert’s full report to the General Assembly:  http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/71/286

Mr. Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 9674 / tguillet@ohchr.org) or write to ie-internationalorder@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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