Oupa Magashula, Commissioner with the South African Revenue Service commissioner attended a recent meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Forum on Tax Administration in Istanbul recently. I found his Op-Ed, Good corporate governance includes moral view of tax (Business Report, 9/27/2010) to be interesting. Here’s a sample,

In the past 18 months over 500 agreements have been signed allowing for increased exchange of tax information between countries. We at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) will be specifically renewing our focus on improving offshore tax compliance, in particular with regards to identifying the beneficial owners of complex offshore structures.

We plan to leave nowhere for non-compliant taxpayers to hide.

At Sars, we have for many years promoted the notion that there is a moral component to tax compliance and this has seen us at odds with some tax advisors and professionals, who insist tax is simply a cost to be reduced wherever possible.

In a world of tax avoidance and tax gross-ups, I’d like to see a competition among corporations and CEOs about who pays the most taxes. Where is the Forbes list of highest tax payers?

It isn’t only Africa that faces “huge inequities, which cannot be resolved without state involvement.” It isn’t only Africa that needs to “correct imbalances, build infrastructure and stimulate economic growth.” Too many cultures make heroes out of bandits and tax evaders.

The revised IRS Whistleblower statute, Section 7623 of the Internal Revenue Code, provides awards of 15-30% of the amount that is ultimately collected by the IRS to persons who identify underpayments of tax for making a substantial contribution of information. Maybe that will help.

Meanwhile, a BBC World Service global poll across 22 countries found (Governments Misspend More Than Half of Our Taxes–Global Poll, September 27, 2010):

  • people estimated on average that 52 per cent of the money they pay in tax is not used in ways that serve the interests and values of the people of their country.
  • The countries with the lowest average estimate of misspent tax money were Spain (average 34% misspent), Indonesia (40%), Azerbaijan and Egypt (both 42%). The highest were in Columbia (74% misspent) and Pakistan (69%). In the world’s two largest economies, Americans estimate on average that 55 per cent of their taxes are misspent, while in China the figure is 46 per cent.
  • Despite low overall support, there is strong backing for government bank bailouts in major developing nations like India and Nigeria (77%), the Philippines (75%) and China (59%). But the world’s major developed economies have majorities opposed to further government bank bailouts–including Germany (84% opposed), Canada (77%), France and the US (both 68%).
  • In only five countries is the dominant view that in the next 12 months good times will return. All of these are developing countries led by India (62%), Nigeria (61%), and Brazil (57%), as well as China (51%) and the Philippines (43%).
  • The most pessimistic countries–those predominantly expecting bad times–are led by the developed countries of the United Kingdom (58%), France (54%), and also include the US (44%), and Spain (38%).

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