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Tax avoidance is a 'legacy issue,' OECD's Angel Gurria says

  • Gurria was Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in London
  • He said governments were working hard to stop tax avoidance and evasion
  • U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said her government is continuing to work against tax evasion
Photographer | Collection | Getty Images

Amid another leak of documents revealing large-scale international tax avoidance, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said Monday that tax avoidance was fast becoming a thing of the past.

"When we're talking about the 'Panama Papers' or 'Paradise Papers' we're talking about a legacy that is fast disappearing," Angel Gurria said.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in London, Gurria said governments were working hard to stop tax avoidance and evasion.

"When we talk about 'Double Irish' or 'Double Dutch' (tax avoidance schemes) we're talking about structures which are no longer there," she said, adding: "This will not be repeated because of the work you and your governments and the OECD have done in the last few years."

"There is quite literally no place to hide," he said, noting that 50 countries had implemented automatic information exchanges regarding tax and that more nations were planning to do the same.

Gurria's comments come after a leak of millions of documents revealing large-scale tax avoidance by high-profile individuals and companies via offshore financial services companies. The latest tax avoidance leak has been dubbed the "Paradise Papers" and comes after a similar leak in 2016 called the "Panama Papers" that showed how a Panamanian law firm allegedly helped its clients to avoid taxes by using offshore tax havens.

Speaking at the same business conference on Monday, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said that her government had continued the work against tax evasion that her predecessor David Cameron had begun.

"He started this work, not only in the U.K. economy but on an international stage. So we have seen more revenues coming into HMRC (the U.K.'s tax-collecting department) over the last few years, with £160 billion extra since 2010," she said.

More work was being done to ensure "greater transparency" in the U.K.'s dependencies and British overseas territories, May said, and HMRC was already able to access more information about so-called "shell" companies.

"We want people to pay the tax that is due," she said. That sentiment was echoed by the leader of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, who said that society was "undermined" by anyone that did not pay the tax they owed.