Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thornton urges sharing of tax info to curb evasion

Thornton urges sharing of tax info to curb evasion
By Kabanda Chulu
Thu 21 Mar. 2013, 14:00 CAT

BRITISH High Commissioner to Zambia James Thornton says there is need to improve the exchange of tax information between different countries so that multinational companies stop playing 'cat and mouse' with revenue authorities.

And High Commissioner Thornton has advised government and opposition parties to be tolerant of each other and uphold the highest standards in politics, human rights and fundamental freedoms if Zambia is to continue receiving foreign investments.

Outlining Britain's priorities for its presidency of the Group of Eight (G8) of world leading economies in Lusaka on Tuesday, High Commissioner Thornton said his country would focus on three key areas of tax, trade and transparency aimed at benefitting Africa.

He said there was need for a serious debate on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance being carried out by multinational companies.

"This is a problem that affects both the developed and developing worlds. We want to look at how to better exchange tax information between different countries so that these big companies stop playing cat and mouse with revenue authorities," High Commissioner Thornton said.

"Here in Zambia, effective taxation will be critical if the nation's riches are to fully benefit its people. Zambia is endowed with abundant natural resources and DFID (British aid organisation) is looking at ways in which it can support the Zambia Revenue Authority."

On trade, High Commissioner Thornton said one problem with trying to buy and sell goods abroad was the sheer amount of paperwork involved in doing so.

"We want to use the World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting this December to help resuscitate the Doha round and secure agreement to get rid of this bureaucracy because such a deal alone can be worth US$70 billion to the global economy and help trade flow freely across the world," he said.

"We also want to use the G8 to unblock trade corridors across Africa and reduce transport costs that slow down the movement of goods. As a landlocked country, Zambia is also a transit hub for the region and we shall support more programmes to boost regional trade and integration."

On transparency, High Commissioner Thornton said there was need to raise global standards so that more information should be available on land deals or mining contracts in order to ensure that citizens benefit from their countries' resources.

"In the G8, we will look at how we can make all government data more open and transparent and how we can use new technology to make it accessible to citizens so that information is published on the internet and we can all see how much governments are being paid for the natural resources and how much money is invested in the economy. For Zambia, enacting the freedom of information Bill is critical and we hope Parliament will table the matter in the next session," he said.

He said when seeking to invest, businesses look at a wider picture including politics, human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of association and assembly.

"We call on all in Zambia -government, opposition and civil society - to uphold highest standards in these areas of freedoms. All have a right to express themselves and to congregate peacefully but all should recognise that others have that right too," said High Commissioner Thornton.

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