According to a report by British accountant, Richard Murphy, tax evasion equates to some 18 percent of global tax collections. And, says Reuters correspondent David Cay Johnston in his blog post Where’s the fraud Mr President “Murphy’s $3 trillion estimate, 5 percent of the global economy, shows how a combination of weak rules on accounting and disclosure combined with inadequate budgets to enforce tax laws impose a terrible cost on honest taxpayers and the beneficiaries of government service”.
There are many types of tax avoidance that make up this estimate – some legal, many illegal – and, if recent reports are anything to go by, Governments are committed to increasing international cooperation to tackle the issue on a global scale
China recently announced it has agreed to join the international effort by the Group of 20 leading economies (G20) to combat tax evasion by signing an agreement to share tax records. China’s decision means that all G20 countries now have agreed to cooperate on tax avoidance, a priority set by global leaders to address the causes of the 2007-2009 financial crisis and to help combat corruption.
The move follows the announcement in July 2013 which saw Finance Ministers from the G20 formally back plans to tackle international tax avoidance and evasion. The G20 has asked the OECD to come up with a plan to improve tax cooperation, with the Finance Ministers saying they “fully endorse the OECD proposal for a truly global model” of information sharing. The statement called on all countries to make automatic information sharing a reality “without further delay”, adding that “capacity-building support” would be provided for poorer nations.
One driver for this increased cooperation is the recent string of news headlines that allege many multinational firms are legally avoiding tax through the use of loopholes and tax havens. Recent high profile cases in the UK include firms such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Starbucks who have all been heavily criticised for the amount of tax they pay in the UK. Although these companies are at pains to point out that these schemes are legal and they have a duty to shareholders to minimise their tax bills, the proposed new rules, and improved cooperation between nations could see global giants paying more in the countries where they do business.
Tackling Fraud with SAP
A problem that’s just as difficult to address for Tax Agencies is that of individual or small-scale illegal fraud that can be difficult to detect. A recent article in Bloomberg’s Business Week about the world’s largest shadow economies (defined as “parts of the economy involving goods and services which are paid for in cash and not declared for tax”) said: “…in 2007, in 162 countries, an average of 35.5 percent of official gross domestic product slipped through the cracks—not counting any fruits from such illegal activities as drug dealing or organized crime”.
This kind of tax evasion not only damages the reputation of government agencies, but it also contributes heavily to ever-increasing budget deficits. Paying taxes is a cornerstone of a healthy economy and a “shadow economy” means Governments often lack the revenue they need to provide adequate public services.
With more and more citizens avoiding taxes by operating their businesses “off the grid”, advanced fraud detection technologies are becoming an increasingly popular method used by Tax Agencies to help combat the problem. SAP Fraud Management, for example, was announced by SAP in March 2013. In its announcement SAP said: “The solution can help Tax Agencies to reduce fraud and non-compliance by cross-checking tax returns or social service applications against millions of related data records in real time – giving tax officers increased capability to spot whether submitted applications match information from other data sources. By further applying predictive algorithms from SAP HANA on a large number of transactions, Revenue authorities can uncover hidden fraud patterns and produce alerts on suspicious transactions that might be missed by conventional fraud and compliance rules”.
The development of technologies that can assist Governments in analysing data on such a huge scale will be welcome news for those struggling to manage the deluge of data brought about by digitisation. John Schweitzer, senior vice president and general manager, Analytics, SAP said. “SAP Fraud Management powered by SAP HANA will enable enterprises to detect, investigate, prevent and monitor irregularities or fraud in environments with ultra-high volumes of data, from both SAP and non-SAP systems. With SAP HANA as its backbone, SAP Fraud Management aims to bring unprecedented processing capabilities.”
Improving the Collection Process with SAP Tax and Revenue Management
Invenio’s Public Sector practice is uniquely placed to offer a rapid, efficient and cost effective deployment of SAP Tax and Revenue Management solutions. Invenio helps Tax Agencies to create a stable foundation for the entire management of the tax and revenue management life-cycle across all tax types to aid efficiency of the entire collection process.