Foxes and chicken coops

A few weeks back I linked to this Guardian piece, upbeat about the OECD’s sudden interest in reducing, rather than abetting, corporate tax avoidance. I posted that because it was a nice surprise, coming from the OECD; on the assumption that the OECD acts according to the wishes of its member governments, it seemed to be an indication that, perhaps, the erosion of national tax bases had gone far enough to bring on a serious reconsideration of the ludicrous and growing tax gift that we have all been giving to multinational corporations.

Now Bloomberg has to go and spoil cast doubt on that. They detail the revolving door between the top levels of the OECD’s tax unit and the accounting and legal firms that help corporations minimize their tax payments. And they conclude by noting that the latest OECD tax chief – the new broom who claims, probably correctly, that all the previous bad advice the OECD has given on this subject was simply what its member-governments wanted – is not exactly working at arm’s length from tax-dodging corporations known for aggressive tax planning:

In another sign that the OECD’s new regime hasn’t entirely shed its corporate-friendly past, Saint-Amans co-authored an article last month on his division’s profit-shifting efforts with William Morris, General Electric’s senior international tax counsel. Morris said he is heading efforts by a business coalition to seek “clarity” on the OECD’s initiative to clamp down on profit-shifting into tax havens.

GE is “known as being aggressive in tax planning,” Saint- Amans said. “I thought it was important to show that this project is not about disregarding what industry thinks.”

I think that if I wanted to ask foxes for some expert advice on chicken coop security, they would probably be willing to give the advice discretely, out of the public eye, understanding that such a consultation might not make a good impression on the chickens. So I don’t quite understand why somebody with Saint-Amans’ role would make a display of publicly seeking such advice. Is it because the corporate capture of government is so thorough that one needn’t even pretend? Is it to curry the favor of possible future employers? Is it to make a display of consultation before clamping down on abuse? Tell me.

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