Germany's Schaeuble Calls for Global Unity to Fight Tax Evasion

  • Finance minister unveils plan following Panama data leak
  • Company registers must be globally connected, Schaeuble says

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called on world leaders to forge a global response to tackle tax evasion in the aftermath of the Panama leaks that laid bare the inner workings of offshore tax havens.

Speaking at the annual reception of the BdB Association of German Banks, Schaeuble said company registers around the world must be coordinated. Earlier on Monday, outgoing BdB head Juergen Fitschen said the lobby supports the ministry’s efforts to combat tax evasion and hailed additional reporting requirements as contributing to transparency and bolstering banks’ reputations.

“We mustn’t stop striving for global governance” to halt tax evasion, Schaeuble said in Berlin, citing automatic information exchange on bank accounts as one example of past success. “The company registers should follow unified standards and what’s more important is that they’re connected globally.”

To the finance industry, Schaeuble said the government “will do everything” to ensure that banks and their advisers are aware of the risks connected to improper services related to offshore accounts.

The leaks come as politicians around the world find themselves on the defensive against populist groups angry at rising inequality, with Germany seeing the emergence of its first right-wing political party since reunification. The revelations are undermining trust in governments even on unrelated issues, including the U.K.’s European Union membership and a Dutch referendum on a proposed trade pact with Ukraine that was defeated last week.

Schaeuble said company ownership registers and global sharing of information are the cornerstones of his plan to fight tax havens. Non-compliant states should be blacklisted and certain financial transactions with them banned, Schaeuble said Sunday in a television interview in which he also singled out the U.S. state of Delaware as a jurisdiction that’s hindering the fight against tax avoidance.

Schaeuble’s push for more transparency and global financial data exchange is his latest battle against tax evasion that’s eroding government revenue around the world. Together with his U.K. counterpart George Osborne, Schaeuble started an initiative in 2012 to fight Base Erosion and Profit Shifting by multinational corporations.

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