Five people who were missing from the Global Tax 50

We’re invited to comment on International Tax Review’s Global Tax 50. It says a lot about these annual trade press lists that four years before I appeared in the International Tax Review list I had featured in its equivalent in Drapers, which covers the fashion industry! Still, it’s a fun game, so let’s play it. Here’s who I think they missed out.

Anyone at all from China

I’m not enough of a China-watcher to know who best to include, but it seems odd to have included four Indians and not a single person from its fellow Eastern superpower, which is also a member of the international tax awkward squad, all be it in a more low key way. Like Brazil, China seems keen to share its distinctive approach to transfer pricing with the rest of the world. With that in mind, maybe Tizhong Liao, China’s member of the UN Tax Committee, would be a good place to start.

Margaret Hodge

Parliamentarians in many countries are taking a greater interest in tax avoidance, following the growth in media scandals and the politicised debates around government deficits. None more so than in the UK, where Hodge ‘s Public Accounts committee has published three critical reports in twelve months, and is about to haul Starbucks and Google over the coals, too. Active parliamentary scrutiny has the potential to challenge the policy made by governments in consultation with business.

Savior Mwambwa

The tax justice agitators on the list certainly deserved their places, but this category did seem rather Anglo-Saxon. Maybe that correctly reflects the public profile of tax justice campaigners at present, but it would be a shame to miss out their colleagues in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are in many ways the most interesting continents in tax right now. I’ve named Savior, from Zambian NGO Center for Trade Policy and Development, as my suggestion because of CTPD’s groundbreaking attempt to use the complaints mechanism of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to challenge a company (Glencore) on its tax affairs. I believe the complaint process is still ongoing, but if it results in a productive outcome (not a ‘victory’ necessarily), it could be a game-changer for campaigning on every continent.

Masatsugu Asakawa and Michelle Levac

ITR’s analysis of the OECD is quite focused on its bureaucrats. While there’s no doubt that Pascal Saint-Amans and his colleagues are powerful players in international tax, the OECD is a political body, where decisions are ultimately taken by member governments. To encapsulate this I’ve suggested Japan’s Asakawa and Levac of Canada because they chair the Committee on Fiscal Affairs, which steers the OECD ‘s tax work overall, and its Working Party 6, the committee that works on transfer pricing, respectively. But the cynic in me wants to go for the US delegates to each…

Armando Lara Yaffar

Norwegian Stig Sollund was an understandable choice for the UN person on the list, given his role coordinating its transfer pricing manual. But the committee ‘s work in a number of areas – the updated model treaty, the recent decision to begin work on a new provision on technical services – also required a firm hand. Having seen Yaffar at work, my impression is that the committee’s independence and ambition this time round owes much to his firm and decisive chairing.

And looking further ahead…

As he’ll be appointing a new tax committee next year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is already a must for ITR’s 2013 list. Did I get the first nomination in there?

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