The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is this week host to a global seminar (29 January to 2 February in Pretoria) on strengthening the fight against tax evasion.
The seminar is hosted jointly with the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, and the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF). It brings together global tax experts, predominantly from developing countries, to share insights and lessons on issues of beneficial ownership and exchange of information on tax matters. The seminar is part of a global effort to ensure that participating tax authorities have the tools needed to adequately tackle tax evasion.
Throughout the world, tax authorities are facing immense challenges to collect national revenues and ensuring that everyone pays their rightful taxes in the prevailing global economic climate. In such a globalised world, it has become increasingly important for tax authorities to collaborate by sharing information.
Tax evasion negatively impacts on the development agenda and fiscal space of virtually every country in the world, and the absence of crucial information about who ultimately owns and controls companies and other legal entities is a factor that enables tax evasion and money laundering, amongst others.
In specific cases, this lack of information about ownership and control has enabled the illicit flow of funds from all countries, but particularly from the developing world.
Tax transparency and exchange of information among tax authorities on the activities of their taxpayers are valuable tools in this fight. They allow tax authorities to obtain information about taxpayers in cases where the revenue authorities might not have been aware of specific (and questionable) cross-border financial transactions.