Mailbox companies at the Zuidas, Amsterdam, NetherlandsPhoto: SOMO

Governments need tax revenue to provide public goods and services like education, health care and infrastructure. Large corporations, like citizens, benefit from these goods and services. But many avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Corporate tax avoidance shifts the tax burden to workers, consumers and small companies, contributing to global economic inequality and stunting economic and social development.

Governments like the Netherlands deprive developing countries of sorely-needed tax revenue by facilitating tax avoidance through mailbox companies. More and more countries compete for the most appealing system of corporate tax-dodging. It’s a system that privatises gains while socialising losses.

SOMO exposes the aggressive tax avoidance strategies of companies, and the impacts of tax avoidance on human rights and public interests. We examine the international and national tax regimes that facilitate corporate tax avoidance, with special attention to the role of the Netherlands as a leading tax haven.

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the bigger picture

Economic Justice

Today’s economic system is a system driven by shareholder value and the interests of large corporations: it maximises their profits, often ignoring the social and environmental costs. The current globalised world does not offer a sustainable level playing field, and as a result, corporations are caught in a race to the bottom.

SOMO wants to contribute to a fair economic system, in which corporations and investors contribute to financing public goods and services, and governments and institutions implement adequate checks and balances, serving social and ecological interests.

Private gain, public loss

SOMO’s research reveals how the current economic and financial system perpetuates economic inequality, and how it exacerbates the power imbalance between the private sector and civil society. Through corporate tax avoidance. Through trade and investment agreements that give companies the right to sue governments for enacting sound social policy. Through a volatile financial system that is increasingly disconnected from the real economy. It is a system of private gain and public loss that leaves ordinary people paying the price.

Our focus is on the social and economic impact of tax treaties and regimes, trade and investment mechanisms and agreements, and the practices and lobby of the financial sector. We pay particular attention to the impact of Dutch and EU policies on low-income countries, examining the degree to which they cohere with sustainable development policies and human rights frameworks.

Economic changes

We work with others in the Netherlands, in Europe, and across the globe, to adapt the economic system, so it serves the public interest and facilitates a more equitable distribution of resources. We want people to be able to control their own economic circumstances, through democratic processes with adequate checks and balances.

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