The Malawi Government desperately needs money to tackle poverty. Yet a 1955 tax treaty with the UK is tying their hands and making it nearly impossible to collect tax from UK companies operating there. The tax treaty is so old that it was signed by the British Governor on behalf of the British colonies of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
Tax avoidance is now scarcely out of the news, and many companies have faced huge reputational damage for playing fast and loose with the rules. Alongside the urgent reforms to regulation that are required, good businesses should recognise that they too must play their part. The world expects nothing less from corporations and their leaders.
The Government yesterday announced its final pre-election budget and, as expected, there was quite a bit in there on tax avoidance. That's hardly surprising - we know that there is overwhelming public support for action on tax dodging. Unfortunately none of the big parties have yet gone far enough - and yesterday's budget announcements don't change that.
One percent of the world's population own half of the world's wealth. Meanwhile, the poorest people on earth, who constitute two thirds of the world's population, own just 3% of the world's wealth. This is clearly nuts. This hasn't happened overnight. The global disparity between incomes has been spiralling out of control over the last few decades.
Those of us who campaign for the powerful to pay their taxes are delighted with the cross-party MPs' report because it sets out the shocking facts on tax and poverty with admirable clarity. It also calls on the Government to stop making excuses and get on with helping poor countries collect the taxes they're owed.