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Cameron under pressure to hit tax avoidance in British overseas territories

THE PRIME MINISTER is set to renew his crackdown on tax dodging, corruption and money laundering in a meeting this week with leaders of Britain’s overseas territories.

Charities including Oxfam and ActionAid have written to David Cameron emphasising the “murky” world of shell companies that set up in territories such as the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, depriving developing countries of billions of dollars in tax revenues.

Cameron promised to “continue to lead the world on tax and transparency” in his successful election campaign earlier this year, but the charities and NGOs that signed the letter describe the failure of British overseas territories to heed his 2013 call for “proper companies, proper taxes, proper rules” as “a national embarrassment”, the Guardian reports.

The prime minister has actively pursued the introduction of central public registers of company ownership in overseas territories in order to allow law enforcement agencies to trace currently-anonymous criminals behind businesses. That agenda has been met with resistance in some territories.

In May 2013, Cameron hailed a deal which saw all the UK’s overseas territories signed up to automatic information-sharing deals. Under the scheme, the UK is, along with other countries involved in the pilot, automatically provided with more information about bank accounts held by their taxpayers in those jurisdictions, including names, addresses, dates of birth, account numbers, account balances and details of payments made into those accounts.

At the G8 summit that year, the prime minister made great play of making tax transparency a central issue, but he failed to convince his G8 counterparts and no binding agreement was made.

In their letter, the NGOs tell Cameron that: “Shining a light on the shadowy world of anonymous shell companies will help governments from Uganda to the UK claim what’s rightfully owed to them, and help citizens to hold governments to account for spending this money on vital public services.”

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