The taxman goes global

Tax Inspectors Without Borders pledges to fight tax evasion in developing countries

Since the founding of the French group Doctors Without Borders in 1971, the concept has spawned an entire genre of borderless charities. Lawyers Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, M.B.A.s Without Borders, Pharmacists Without Borders and more are all bringing a measure of relief to less-fortunate nations. But the latest entry may inspire as much fear as gratitude.

Tax Inspectors Without Borders was unveiled last week at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tax summit in South Africa as the world’s newest border-busting effort.

The idea is to create a roster of experts who can be sent on short notice to fight tax evasion in Third World countries. “There is a lot of concern in developing countries about corporations shifting profits to other jurisdictions,” says the OECD’s Pascal Saint-Amans. “Take a country like Zambia with a large copper mining industry: it may lack specialists in transfer pricing or international resource valuation, while companies themselves have access to many excellent international tax advisers.” Tax Inspectors Without Borders would provide those specialists to make sure proper taxes get paid.

Not romantic work, maybe, but important development work just the same.