A little change can go a long way. Oxfam estimates that a tiny 0.5 percent increase in tax on the wealth of the richest one percent could raise more than it would cost to educate all the children who are currently out of school and provide healthcare that would save the lives of 3.3 million people.
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Billionaire fortunes increased globally by 12 percent last year – or US$2.5 billion a day – while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent, reveals a new report from Oxfam today. The report is being launched as political and business leaders gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The two richest people in New Zealand added an astounding NZ$1.1billion to their fortunes in 2017-2018, while the wealth of the poorest half of the country decreased overall, according to new Oxfam research released today. The report reveals that the richest 5% of the population collectively owns more wealth than the bottom 90%.
Just one year ago, 13.4 million leaked files from offshore service providers and company registries were made public. This leak, known as the Paradise Papers, revealed the tax planning strategies of more than 100 multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple, as well as offshore activities by more than 120 politicians and world leaders. Like always politicians were quick to react and promise reforms. But so far very little has happened. A new Paradise Papers is to be expected if no serious reforms are undertaken in the coming years. Just recently Zucman estimated that multinationals artificially shift almost half of their total overseas profits – 40 percent – to tax havens.
Last year, the Paradise Papers laid bare the extent to which multinationals and extremely wealthy individuals exploit a broken global system. This system allows them to avoid paying their fair share of tax which contributes to poverty and inequality around the world. One year on, it is clear we still need to do more.
A lack of tax transparency allows multinational corporations to unfairly avoid paying billions in tax. That’s less revenue for vital public services and infrastructure. Last month we revealed shocking new evidence that four big drug companies - Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbott and Merck & Co. (also known as MSD)* appear to be using offshore tax havens to avoid paying billions of dollars in tax. NZ$21 million to be precise, just here in New Zealand.
Two and a half years ago I sat barricaded inside my home in Fiji, listening to a ferocious wind travelling at an average speed of 230 kilometres an hour. Over the howl of the wind I could hear trees crashing down outside. I didn’t know how long the storm was going to last. I didn’t know where the next tree would fall.
Last week, we revealed that it looks like New Zealand is losing $21 million a year to unfair tax avoidance by four big pharmaceutical companies – Abbott, Merck & Co. (also known as MSD), Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer. Some of you may have seen comments about the way we conducted the research – our methodology. We’ve got a great blog about the methodology from our American colleagues who led the research. But we want to take a slightly different angle, because the comments about our method actually support what we are saying – that if we want an accurate picture of what companies earn and owe we need more publicly available information so that we can use more robust information.
When we at Oxfam set out to estimate the size and scope of the tax dodging by some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies for our new report, Prescription for Poverty, we had no idea it would take two years of painstaking research. Yet, because of pervasive secrecy in the tax system, we had to spend months working with local researchers to uncover even the most basic financial information about the company’s operations in countries around the world.
Iffat Tahmid Fatema, 28, is a humanitarian public health worker for Oxfam’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh. "I started working for Oxfam last year at the height of the emergency when Rohingya refugees were arriving in huge numbers every day. At that time, I was toiling in a lab at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong pursuing my Master's degree in Bio Technology, but I knew I wanted to work with real people, face-to-face."