The so-called “Panama Papers” scandal reminds us that concealing wealth and avoiding tax payments is neither uncommon nor — in many cases — illegal. But the embarrassing leak exposes something else: The public trust is breached when companies, the rich and the powerful can hide their money without breaking the law. If this breach is left unaddressed, those who aren’t rich enough to hide money will be less willing to pay and contribute to the social contract in which taxes are exchanged for quality services.
As finance minister in my home country of Indonesia, I saw firsthand how a weak tax system eroded public trust and enabled crony capitalism. Shadow markets arose for highly subsidized fuel, family connections secured jobs, and bribes helped public servants beef up their salaries. Tax avoidance among the elites was common and the country couldn’t mobilize the resources we needed to build infrastructure, create jobs, and fight poverty.
illicit financial flows
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How do countries ensure that remittance service providers – who are often serving the world’s poorest people – mitigate their risk for abuse by money launderers and terrorist organizations?
This important question is addressed by new Guidance from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international standard-setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).
The United Nations estimates that developing countries received over US$400 billion in remittances from migrants living abroad in 2014. These funds are often the first financial service that migrants and their families use, so it is important that people can send and receive funds with relative ease and at reasonable cost. However, remittance service providers and the governments that supervise them, must ensure that they are not abused by parties undertaking illegitimate activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing.