ASAP researchers recently completed a study, examining expert opinion on how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can make the greatest possible impact on the problem of illicit financial flows. The study results show overwhelming expert support for greater transparency in the global financial system and underline the need for global cooperation around a common agenda of reforms. The current proposal for the SDGs, put forward by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, does not include many of the reforms seen as most desirable by the study participants.
In the coming weeks, ASAP will launch a global petition, highlighting the study results and calling for robust SDG targets that would help end tax-related illicit financial flows by building transparency into the international financial system.
The study used the Delphi technique, in which a group of experts respond anonymously to a series of questionnaires, and after each round, a summary of the results is sent back to the group. Participants were encouraged to revise their original responses in light of others’ answers, and over a series of rounds, group judgment was derived. 27 experts from academia, NGOs, multilateral organizations, and the private sector took part in the study.
In the study, 10 policy options were identified as being highly desirable for inclusion in the SDG framework. They are, in order of desirability:
- Require disclosure of the ultimate beneficial owners of companies, and of the controlling parties of trusts and foundations
- Reform international tax rules so that the taxable profits of multinational corporations are aligned with the location of their economic activity
- Require public reporting of funds paid to governments for the sale of natural resources such as oil, gas, metals, and minerals, and the use of those funds
- Significantly increase developing country tax authority capacity
- Implement automatic exchange of tax-relevant financial information on a global basis
- Implement public country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations
- Require that all governments carry out clear, reliable, frequent, and timely public fiscal reporting and that governments’ fiscal policy-making process be open to public participation
- Increase capacity building, training, and resources for law enforcement for work on financial sector investigations
- Impose tougher sanctions, including jail time, on professionals who facilitate illicit financial flows, e.g. senior officers from global banks, accounting firms, law firms, insurance firms, and hedge funds
- Harmonize anti-money laundering regulations internationally.
Other study results include participant’s assessment of the likelihood of various policies being included in the SDG framework.
The study was funded with donations raised during ASAP’s crowdfunding campaign, Stop IFFs 2015, which was carried out last summer.
The report is available for download here.