Gabriel Zucman, author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations, estimates that 8 per cent of global wealth, or $7.6tn, is deposited in jurisdictions commonly known as tax havens. This includes the financial assets of individuals and companies who seek not to pay tax, or pay less tax, in their home countries. James Henry, an economist, lawyer and investigative journalist, estimates the value of unreported financial assets at between $21tn and $32tn.

In a democratic social contract, the financing of states requires every citizen to pay taxes according to their ability to do so. So it is necessary to curb the use of artificial mechanisms to avoid due taxes. One such mechanisms is “aggressive tax planning”, which explores gaps between different national tax laws and embraces legal and accounting manoeuvres for profit or asset shifting towards jurisdictions with favourable taxation and little tax transparency. Certain jurisdictions allow the concealment of the beneficial owner of profits and incomes, undermining the actions of tax authorities. Read more

Ukraine faces a moment of truth, as the first domestic energy bills to include the large increase in tariffs announced earlier this year reached hard-pressed consumers this month. We are entering the period in which the will of the country to carry out badly needed reforms will be tested against its ability to absorb the inevitable shocks and pain involved.

Raising energy tariffs to market rates is the single most important reform Ukraine has carried out so far, enabling it to root out corruption, cut waste and strengthen public finances. But the measure is deeply unpopular and unscrupulous politicians have been more than ready to exploit that fact. Read more

Days ahead of hosting a high-profile international investment conference, Egypt has announced it is slashing its top tax rate in an apparent bid to enhance its appeal to potential investors.

The top rate for corporates and individuals is to be reduced from 25 per cent to 22.5 per cent. But the decision also means the abolition of an additional 5 per cent “millionaire’s tax” levied on annual incomes above one million Egyptian pounds, or $133,000. That levy, introduced last year and intended as an exceptional measure for three years only, had brought the top rate to 30 per cent.

“This definitely makes Egypt more attractive to foreign investors,” said Angus Blair, president of the Signet Institute, a Cairo-based economic think tank. “I thought it was a mistake last year when the tax rate was increased. It was not the appropriate time. Egypt is now more investor-friendly than last week.” Read more

As Peru’s economy struggles to regain its former ebullience, the government has again stepped in, this time with a stimulus package worth an estimated $4bn next year or about 2 per cent of gross domestic product. Much of the money comes in tax breaks but the package also includes about $1bn in bond issuance to help pay for government investment, poverty relief and job creation.

The package of measures – the fourth to be announced this year, and still subject to final approval in Congress – was unveiled last week by Alonso Segura, finance minister, just two months after he replaced the widely-respected Luis Miguel Castilla, who resigned unexpectedly in September. Read more

By Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam International

After the world was plunged into a financial crisis, back in 2009, G20 leaders promised to clean up the international tax system, once and for all. The result – five years on – is a plan of action devised for them by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to tackle Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), a series of tactics used by multinational companies to make profits ‘disappear’ or move to another country, to pay less or even avoid paying corporate taxation. Read more

Few things appeal to Brazilians more than the combination of a cold beer and a barbecue while watching a soccer game. If the match happens to be part of a World Cup, especially one being hosted in Brazil, then that’s just another excuse to drink more beer.

The recipe for a good festa in Brazil this year seemed almost infallible – that is, until this week, when the government intervened with some terrible news: it plans to increase taxes on beer and some juices, as well as sports and energy drinks. Read more

South Korea’s stock exchange opened a gold trading platform on Monday with the hope of boosting transparency of gold trades and rooting out shady deals used for tax evasion.

Eight brokerages and 49 dealers were allowed to participate in the market. They will get tax benefits to encourage their active participation and they will be exempted from trading commissions temporarily until March 2015. Importers of gold to be traded on the exchange will also be exempted from tariffs to increase supply. Read more

A further twist in the tumultuous case of Vodafone and the Indian tax authority.

After deciding to scrap conciliation talks with Vodafone India just two weeks ago, the Indian government has put the offer back on the table – just as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making noise about resolving these kinds of conflicts if it comes to power following this year’s general election.

It is just the latest in a protracted $2.6bn dispute over capital gains taxes allegedly due in connection with Vodafone’s acquisition of Hutchison Essar back in 2007. Read more

By Richard Asquith of TMF Group

It has been a difficult three years for Egypt, both politically and economically. The euphoria following the toppling of President Mubarak has given way to violent turmoil and a sharp decline in the country’s traditional economic drivers: exports, FDI and tourism. GDP growth has fallen from 7 per cent in 2009 to just over 1 per cent today and, with unemployment rising to over 13 per cent and a national debt equivalent to 89 per cent of GDP, major economic surgery is required. Read more

All questions in India today seem to have the same answer. Everything, it seems, depends on the results of the upcoming general election.

So it’s refreshing to find someone saying that – in some ways – it doesn’t matter who comes into power in the centre. Read more

Nokia, the Finnish telecoms group, asked the Delhi High Court on Thursday to release factory assets frozen by tax authorities this year, as it prepares to hand its mobile devices unit to Microsoft.

Back in September Microsoft announced plans to buy the loss-making business from cash-strapped Nokia for €5.4bn. But in India, the deal faces a small complication: a $321m tax dispute in which Nokia’s local assets were frozen. Bank accounts have subsequently been released but fixed assets – including a factory in Chennai – remain stuck in limbo. Read more

Did Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposed fiscal reform, unveiled on Sunday, deliver what Mexico needs to boost its woefully low tax take? One way of assessing that is to gauge what the reform aims to provide against the bills that Mexico has to pay. On that basis, the answer is “Partly” – even though the economic slowdown prompted Peña Nieto to hold back from a widely expected sales tax increase on medicines and food. Read more

By Emma Seery of Oxfam

While disagreements over Syria are likely to dominate the annual G20 summit in St Petersburg this week, leaders are at least in agreement about one key issue on the table: the need to rewrite global corporate tax rules. Read more

Where’s the easiest place in the world to set up an untraceable shell company? Cayman? Singapore? Jersey? Not according to research by a group of academics. Actually, the answer is Kenya. Read more

Overheard in an up-market pharmacy in São Paulo:

Till operator: “Tax code on your receipt, madam?”

Customer: “On a bill this size? God forbid, my husband would kill me!”

The tax code on the receipt is a nifty idea that at first glance should have universal appeal. So what was this customer’s problem? Read more

In a bid to jump-start its struggling auto assembly industry, Ukraine has introduced yet another tax on auto imports, infuriating officials at the European Union and further jeopardising any chance of signing planned association and free trade agreements with the EU in the autumn. Read more

From Oleksandr Klymenko, Minister of Revenues and Duties of Ukraine

In response to the article Ukraine: will new tax law hit the oligarchs? published in the FT on July 10, 2013, I would like to clarify a few points about Ukraine’s new transfer pricing control legislation.

Amendments to the Law on Transfer Pricing adopted by the Parliament do not distort the original intent of the initiative; the “place of profit” for transnational corporations who have production facilities in Ukraine should correspond to the location of these facilities and product manufacture. Read more

There's an oligarch in there somewhere

With economic challenges piling up fast, you would think Ukraine’s government would move fast to clean up things at home. Cracking down on tax evasion in a country where half of the economy is estimated to operate in the shadows would be a good place to start.

But will the ruling administration of president Viktor Yanukovich force the billionaire oligarchs who backed him into paying their fair share of taxes, or will they continue applying various means to squeeze hard-earned cash out of average citizens that are struggling to survive? Read more

Kenya may have avoided the dreaded ‘resource curse’ afflicting many of its African peers, but that leaves the government with painful revenue-raising choices, such as the controversial recent attempt to raise taxes on mobile money transfers.

But the country might not be as resource-barren as it once seemed. Read more

Apart from the sunshine, beaches and tender sea breeze, there’s now another reason to head for Hainan, China’s southernmost holiday island: duty-free shopping. Read more