“We have some doubt whether it would really prove useful.” The origins of UK opposition to a Global Tax Body.

As OECD and G-77 countries debate the status of the UN tax committee at the Financing For Development conference in Addis Ababa, the finger has once again been pointed at the UK and US.

This is from today’s Guardian:

The UK joined the US and several other wealthy countries at the UN financing for development conference in Addis Ababa in a manoeuvre to limit discussions on tax policy at the UN, arguing that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was taking the lead on tax issues.

This is from the Guardian in 2008, at the time of the last FFD conference in Doha:

The Observer has established that the UK is lobbying to remove paragraph 10 from the draft Doha Outcome Document…Paragraph 10 focuses on fighting tax evasion. It aims to encourage global tax information-sharing and simplified tax laws. Most crucially, it wants to upgrade the UN’s tax-expert panel to intergovernmental status, elevating the importance of the issue of individual and corporate tax avoidance and evasion. The UK, together with the US, Canada and Australia, are opposed to the measure, according to sources in the UN.

These positions are hardly new. As the memo reproduced below shows, the UK was opposed to the creation of the original ad hoc group of experts, which became the current UN committee, way back in 1967. The UK view then was that this “technical matter” was better discussed in a “more homogenous group” (the OECD), rather than risking “confrontation” between capital-exporting and capital-importing countries.

The current OECD member state argument is mostly about the cost of a parallel bureaucracy at the UN (see, for example, this EU position statement [pdf]). While that was also present in 1967, it’s interesting that today the UK’s main concern, about confrontation at the UN, is no longer articulated by the UK.

Link to the memo on Slideshare.