Essex University, 7th-8th July 2003

The use of tax havens and `offshore' jurisdictions to avoid and evade taxes and other regulatory requirements has become an issue of increasing concern. Although governments have taken a number of initiatives in the past 10 years or more, they appear to have made relatively little impact. Although ordinary citizens are generally aware of the issue, it has not been the focus of active political debate. This is beginning to change with the conflicts and campaigns over globalisation: for example, a European Network against Tax Havens and Tax Evasion, was formed in November 2002 at the European Social Forum in Florence. An important factor which reduces the effectiveness of both governmental initiatives and political campaigns is the lack of adequate research and analysis of the issue. Many if not most of the publications on the matter are by professionals who have vested interests in maintaining and supporting tax and regulatory avoidance and/or accept `free market' arguments. This is also now beginning to change.

The purpose of this Workshop is to take stock of the research that has been done and the information that is available on the reasons for and dimensions of the problem, and to evaluate the actions that are being and could be taken to combat it. Although the main focus is on avoidance and evasion of taxes, it is also important to consider related issues, such as flags-of-convenience for shipping, as well as money-laundering and avoidance of financial regulation. This is because the same facilities can be and are used for several kinds of regulatory avoidance, and therefore counter-measures also should be coordinated. It is also important to stress that the issue should not be viewed as one which opposes `good' states and delinquent `havens', nor developed states with `high' regulatory standards against less-developed states with inadequate governance. Research has shown that the `offshore' phenomenon is all-pervasive, and results from inadequate regulatory coordination combined with removal of controls on international monetary flows.

This Workshop aims to bring together a variety of researchers working on this issue, including academics, journalists, policy staff of civil society organisations, consultants and professionals, elected politicians and/or their researchers, and government or international organisation officials. It is hoped that the meeting could stimulate the establishment of a continuing international research network. Although participants should share the general perspectives outlined here, the intention is to engage in open-minded debate and discussion, and not to formulate an agreed line or policy. However, the ideas and information generated could and should be used to inform the political initiatives and campaigns already under way.
There will be no charge for participation in the Workshop, but participants are expected to finance their travel and accommodation costs (which can be arranged by the conference organisers). However, some financial assistance is available for invited participants who are unable to meet all their own expenses. Anyone interested in participating should provide details of the nature of their interest, affiliations and any relevant research or publications, to:

Richard Murphy, Fulcrum Chartered Accountants, 150 Beresford Road, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 3WD. Phone 01353 645041;Fax 01353 645042; e-mail

Organising Committee:

Richard Murphy (Fulcrum Chartered Accountants), Prem Sikka (Essex University), Pete Coleman (War on Want), John Christensen (former Economic Adviser to States of Jersey), Ronen Palan (Sussex University), Sol Picciotto (Lancaster University).