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Quebec unions campaign against tax havens

15 June 2017
The issue of tax havens has been on the public stage for several years now. The phenomenon has become more widespread over the last twenty years. Following the recent financial crisis, western countries have made a commitment to tackle tax havens, but as could be expected, little concrete action has been taken.

Tax havens put state finances under enormous pressure. Each year, wealthy taxpayers and large companies circumvent the law by using tax havens to avoid their tax obligations, with a huge effect on the financing of public services. Offshore jurisdictions also allow multinationals to build a network of subsidiaries to circumvent both their tax obligations and environmental and social standards.

There is an urgent need for governments to deal with this problem and to find a solution to eliminate it entirely. All too often, they reduce the phenomenon of tax evasion to the issue of non-declared workers, while billions escape them through tax havens.

Greatly concerned by the inaction of governments, more than a dozen organisations in Quebec have set up the collective An end to tax havens, which in 2011 developed and conducted a first awareness campaign asking the population to send a postcard to the Minister of Finance of Québec and the establishment of a critical information website.

A second campaign entitled Tax havens: lift the veil! was carried out in 2013

Lastly, a massive mobilization campaign led by Oxfam-Québec, in collaboration with the collective An end to tax havens, Alain Deneault and Ecosociété, À la recherche des milliards perdus, mettons fin à l’ère des paradis fiscaux (Searching for the lost billions, end the era of tax havens), was launched in April 2016. Over a hundred organizations and public figures supported the joint statement.

The work of raising public awareness and political representation has given some initial results:

  • The issue of tax havens has been the focus of news reports in Quebec on several occasions in recent years;
  • A special parliamentary commission on tax havens and the fight against tax evasion was held in 2015 and 2016: banks and accounting firms were forced to testify to their involvement in the use of tax havens. Listen (in French) to the hearing of Alain Deneault, accompanied by Érik Bouchard-Boulianne, an economist from the Quebec Central Trade Union Confederation (CSQ), on September 15.
  • The commission's report was released in April 2017 and contains 38 recommendations to address the phenomenon of tax havens.

The government initiated a tightening of tax incentives for businesses following the Godbout commission on taxation in Quebec.

This article is an extract from the “Right to Health” newsletter issue 02/2017. Subscribe to the newsletter. Send us your stories.

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