Thursday, February 21, 2013

Taxcast: opening the black box on who makes global tax policy and how they do it

I'm pleased to have been part of the February 2013 Taxcast from Naomi Fowler and the Tax Justice Network  In this edition of the taxcast Naomi looks at current trends in transparency and taxing the digital economy and then delves into the question of global tax reform, asking whether we should expect real progress from the OECD, a rich country thinktank/inter-governmental organization/lobbyists network.

Readers here will not be surprised that I am critical of norm-making from the OECD, given its essential character as a forum for back-room dealmaking between business interests and government. NGOs have been trying to gain greater access, but it is a slow and arduous process, as we saw recently with an informed citizen trying to gain access to something the OECD advertised as a "public" meeting. In the taxcast Richard Murphy is cautiously optimistic that the pressures being brought to bear on the OECD will bear fruit--that governments are starting to see that they have to be responsive to constituents beyond the business community, and they will have to make real changes at some point.

I am less optimistic given the institutional structure in place but I am hopeful because at least the right questions are being asked: good policy is a product of good process, and the converse is also true.  That means that who is in the room is of vital importance when it comes to developing norms. If NGOs, watchdog groups and citizens are paying attention they will pester the OECD if it tries to develop global transparency standards on tax from inside its own black box.

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