Anti-corruption glossary

Tax evasion / Tax avoidance

Tax evasion is the illegal non-payment or under-payment of taxes, usually by deliberately making a false declaration or no declaration to tax authorities – such as by declaring less income, profits or gains than the amounts actually earned, or by overstating deductions. It entails criminal or civil legal penalties. Tax avoidance is the legal practice of seeking to minimise a tax bill by taking advantage of a loophole or exception to the rules, or adopting an unintended interpretation of the tax code. It usually refers to the practice of seeking to avoid paying tax by adhering to the letter of the law but opposed to the spirit of the law. Proving intention is difficult; therefore the dividing line between avoidance and evasion is often unclear.

Why it matters

Tax evasion is facilitated by complex and opaque corporate structures and hidden company ownership. Governments should establish mandatory, public registers that disclose the beneficial ownership of trust funds and companies to allow ill-gotten gains to be more easily traced. Enhanced corporate transparency provides information that can monitor behaviour.

Additional Information: Tax evasion / Tax avoidance

Image: Transparency International, Nick Hilditch