Human rights expert calls for ‘abolition of tax havens’

An independent human rights expert has urged the United Nations to convene a world conference on tax avoidance and tax evasion, the abolition of tax havens and the protection of whistleblowers.

“I sincerely hope that the abolition of tax havens and the creation of a United Nations Tax Authority with a mandate to combat offshore tax avoidance and evasion, and to outlaw tax havens, will be among Mr. Guterres’s priorities. Trillions of dollars necessary for combating extreme poverty and addressing climate change are being kept offshore, thus escaping just taxation and effectively stealing hundreds of billions of dollars each year from the public treasuries,” Mr. de Zayas said.

The U.N.’s independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, said last week that the choice of António Guterres as the next U.N. secretary-general offers a unique opportunity to advance the fight against tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

Mr. de Zayas, a professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy, said, “Widespread tax avoidance, tax evasion, tax fraud and profit-shifting, facilitated by bank secrecy and a web of shell companies registered in tax havens, are now routinely documented, but their true human cost is only revealed progressively.”

The report calls for the establishment of an intergovernmental tax body, with the aim of developing a U.N. convention on taxation and international cooperation in tax matters.His report to the U.N. General Assembly focusing on how these issues threaten the international order was released to the public this month. It concluded that tax avoidance and tax evasion deprive countries of revenue needed to fulfil human rights treaty obligations and alleviate poverty.

It also calls on the U.N. to introduce a financial transaction tax, to agree on a minimum corporate tax rate and curb tax competition among countries, “acknowledging that this policy facilitates corruption, bribery and money laundering.”The U.N. should adopt a common standard for the multilateral and automatic exchange of tax information, implement corporate and tax transparency, including public registries of ultimate beneficial ownership and country-by-country reporting, the report states.



  1. It is interesting that Mr. de Mayas, an American was reimbursed by the United Nations for income taxes he paid while working for the UN. He also was reimbursed 1/2 of the self employment taxes he paid while working for the UN. (Admittedly, Mr. de Mayas is retired and no longer a UN staff member, perhaps changing his tax status.)

    “U.S. citizens serving in the U.S. are also subject to self-employment tax on their UN earnings. The UN reimburses those staff members who have to pay the U.S. income taxes due on their UN earnings as well as one half of the related self-employment taxes payable by U.S. citizens.” (United Nations – Department of Management)

    Many Diplomats around the world receive similar benefits accorded to citizens of various nations. Another example is most of the EU officials working in Brussels.

    “EU-employees are exempted from national income tax according to an agreement, the so-called Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, annexed to the treaties establishing the Union. It’s also well known that EU staff in Brussels and Luxembourg gets a wide range of allowances. ” – (Brussesls Times June 22, 2016)