“The Missing Profits of Nations,” by Thomas Tørsløv, Ludvig Wier, and Gabriel Zucman is a recent high-profile study seeking to assess profit shifting by multinational corporations. Headlines such as “40 percent of multinational profits are shifted” are at risk of being misinterpreted as indicating potential revenue gains that are higher than their findings suggest.
Illicit Financial Flows, Trade Misinvoicing, and Multinational Tax Avoidance: The Same or Different?
Illicit financial flows (IFFs) connected with corruption, crime, and tax evasion are an issue of increasing concern. However, there is not yet a clear consensus on how to define illicit financial flows, and even less on how to measure them.
This paper looks at estimates of the potential gains from taxing across borders, alongside largely domestic measures such as property tax, personal income tax, VAT, and tobacco taxes. It finds that while action on cross-border taxation could yield additional tax take in the region of one percent of GDP, in many countries measures targeting the domestic tax base might deliver something in the region of nine percent. The main enabler is political commitment.
Domestic measures have greater potential for raising tax yields over time. Rough estimates indicate that there may be $9 of additional tax capacity from domestic policy measures for every $1 from international action. The main enabler is political commitment.
In the search for sustainable sources of finance for development, the potential for developing countries to collect more domestic revenues from taxation has risen to prominence in recent years. International tax evasion and avoidance and the role of tax havens have been raised as critical barriers, and transparency is often advocated as a key solution. This briefing offers a short outline of the key issues, terms, and numbers involved.
International debates on taxation and development have been informed by a popular narrative that there is a large ‘pot of gold’ for funding which could be released by cracking down on the questionable tax practices of multinational enterprises, and which could bridge the gap towards f