UN urges countries to strengthen tax systems to promote economic growth

UN Conference

Major international organisations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations and the World Bank Group on Wednesday called on all governments to strengthen and increase the effectiveness of their tax systems to unlock domestic resources towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promote economic growth.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres(L) at a high level discussion forum in New York.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres(L) at a high-level discussion forum in New York.

They made the call during a three-day conference on “Taxation and the SDGs”, which opened on Wednesday at UN Headquarters in New York.
“I call upon the international community to establish effective mechanisms to combat tax evasion, money laundering and illicit financial flows so that developing countries could better mobilise their own resources,” said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Additionally, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said: “Funding the SDGs is an economic and ethical imperative with major implications for taxation.

“Countries themselves need to raise more revenue in an equitable way. And the entire international community needs to eradicate tax evasion and tax avoidance.”

Domestic resource mobilisation presents a challenge for developing countries, who need to raise tax revenue of at least 15 per cent of GDP to be able to provide basic services, such as better road infrastructure, health care and public safety.

Presently, in almost 30 of the 75 poorest countries, tax revenues are below the 15 per cent threshold.

At the same time, more advanced economies need to pay greater attention to spillovers from their tax policies and step up their support for stronger tax systems in developing countries.

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All countries and stakeholders need to continue working together on establishing a fair and efficient system of international taxation, including efforts to fight tax avoidance and tax evasion.

“Effective taxation is essential to promote a more inclusive and sustainable growth. It is fundamental to making globalisation work for all.

“It is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the Secretary-General of the OECD, Ángel Gurría.

During conference ministers and vice-ministers of finance as well as tax authorities and senior representatives from civil society, the private sector, academia, regional and global organisations will focus on key directions needed to strengthen tax policy and administration that is more sustainable and inclusive.

“Fair and efficient tax systems, combined with good service delivery and public accountability, build citizens’ trust in government and help societies prosper,” said the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Kim.

The conference, organised by the Platform for Collaboration on Tax (PCT), provides a unique opportunity to address relevant topics to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

It will also focus on efforts to mobilise domestic resources for development; the role of tax in supporting sustainable economic growth; investment and trade; the social dimensions of taxation (income and gender inequality and human development); as well as capacity development and international tax cooperation.

The conference aims to provide guidance to countries and other stakeholders on how to better target tax efforts to achieve broader development goals.

Insights from the conference will help inform and shape the future work of the PCT members and partners, including the IMF, OECD, UN and World Bank.

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The conference will conclude with a statement of commitments from PCT members, which will inform a future agenda on tax policy and administration.

The Platform for Collaboration on Tax is a joint initiative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations, and the World Bank Group to strengthen collaboration on domestic resource mobilization (DRM).

The PCT fosters collective action for stronger tax systems in developing and emerging countries.
The four PCT partners each supports country efforts through policy dialogue, technical assistance and capacity building, knowledge creation and dissemination and input into the design and implementation of standards for international tax matters.
The PCT also produces guidance and tools on key issues of capacity building and international taxation and has developed the Medium-Term Revenue Strategy, which is an approach for coordinated and sustained support to comprehensive country-led tax reform.
By Oluwashina Iyanda
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