Plenary session
Panel discussion: Tax evasion

Auditorium: Thursday, 7 September 2023: 09:00-10:30 (UTC+2)

Tax evasion and tax avoidance are major obstacles to mobilizing resources for development efforts in the Global South. Tax evasion includes illegal attempts to defeat the imposition of taxes by individuals, corporations, and trusts, and often entails the deliberate misrepresentation of the taxpayer information to the tax authorities to reduce the taxpayer's tax liability. Such activities include dishonest tax reporting, declaring less income, profits, or gains than the amounts earned, and using bribes to authorities in countries with high corruption rates and hiding money in secret locations. Tax avoidance, on the other hand, are legal methods used by individual taxpayers and corporations to lower their tax bills. Tax credits, deductions, income exclusion, and loopholes are forms of tax avoidance.

This policy plenary will address what is known about tax evasion and tax avoidance, and how it results in many complex tax collection challenges in low- and middle-income countries. The panelists will discuss ways to reform the existing tax systems and combat illicit activities. Panelists include Gerard Ryle, Director of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); Alex Cobham, Chief Executive of the Tax Justice Network; Toril-Iren Pedersen, Head of section for governance and transparency of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad); and Pierre Bachas, ESSEC Business School and EU Tax Observatory. The policy plenary will be chaired by Arvinn Gadgil, Director of the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre.

09:00-09:08 Brief introduction to the session
09:08-09:20 First question to speakers
09:20-10:00 Moderated debate 
10:00-10:30 Q&A

Panel discussion | Tax evasion


09:00-10:30 (UTC+2)

Arvinn GadgilArvinn Gadgil | Moderator

Arvinn Gadgil has been engaged in governance and development policy for 20 years. As Director for OGC he leads a team that provides research insights, data and engagements to improve the global conversation on governance, and provide guidance to UNDP's program contexts. Before joining UNDP he was Policy Director for International Development Policy in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He has been engaged on issues such as domestic resource mobilization, addressing illicit financial flows, anti-corruption, fiscal stability, and global economic governance. At MFA he led a system-wide development policy analysis network to improve Norwegian development policy engagements.

Arvinn has been Senior Director of the humanitarian organization Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and has held a number of board positions in academic institutions, civil society organizations and inter-governmental institutions. He held the roles of State Secretary, Deputy Minister and Junior Minister for international development, climate and environment over a period of six years in Norway. Trained as a career diplomat, he has also worked in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Arvinn holds degrees in development studies, economics and international studies from the UK and Norway.  He is a Norwegian citizen, and an overseas citizen of India.

Toril PedersenToril-Iren Pedersen | Panelist

Toril-Iren Pedersen is Assistant Director in the Department of Partnerships and Shared Prosperity and heads the Section for Governance and Transparency at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). She was formerly the Policy Director for the Tax and Development within the same agency.

Prior to joining Norad she worked at the UN, focusing on a range of governance and public management issues including support to local governments, expenditure and revenue management, land governance and gender in public administrations. 

Gerard RyleGerard Ryle | Panelist

Gerard Ryle is the Pulitzer Prize and Emmy-Award winning director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, DC. He led the worldwide teams of journalists working on the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers and Pandora Papers investigations, the biggest in journalism history. Under his leadership, ICIJ has become one of the best-known journalism brands in the world.

He has been credited with revolutionizing the way investigative journalism is done today, convincing more than 150 of the world’s biggest and smallest media companies to join forces to work together on global stories. His work with the ICIJ has helped trigger the downfall of four world leaders. It has led to multiple arrests and prompted government inquiries and legislative reform in more than 70 countries.

Alexander CobhamAlex Cobham | Panelist

Alex Cobham is an economist and chief executive of the Tax Justice Network. He is also a founding member of the steering group of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation, and of the technical advisory group for the Fair Tax Mark. His work focuses on illicit financial flows, effective taxation for development, and inequality. He has been a researcher at Oxford University, Christian Aid, Save the Children, and the Center for Global Development, and has consulted widely, including for UNCTAD, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, DFID, and the World Bank. He has published two books: The Uncounted (Polity Press), and Estimating Illicit Financial Flows: A Critical Guide to the Data, Methodologies, and Findings, with Petr Janský (Oxford University Press, open access). A new book, 'What do we know about tax justice, and what should we do about it?' will be published by SAGE in late 2023.

Pierre BachasPierre Bachas | Panelist

Pierre Bachas is an Assistant Professor of Finance at the ESSEC-Business School, on leave from the World Bank Development Research Group, and a senior economist at the EU Tax Observatory. His research interests are in Public Finance and Development Economics, particularly the implications of informality for tax design and how globalization and tax competition are impacting lower income countries. Pierre received his PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley.