G8 leaders have agreed new measures to clamp down on money launderers, illegal tax evaders and corporate tax avoiders.
Governments agreed to give each other automatic access to information on their residents’ tax affairs.
They will also require shell companies – often used to exploit tax loopholes and invest money anonymously – to identify their effective owners.
The summit communiqué urged countries to “fight the scourge of tax evasion”.
The measures are designed to combat illegal evasion of taxes, as well as legal tax avoidance by large corporations that make use of loopholes and tax havens.
The summit in Northern Ireland also saw the launch of free trade negotiations between the EU and US, which UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who was hosting the summit, dubbed “the biggest bilateral trade agreement in history”.
Tax, trade and transparency – dubbed “The Three Ts” – were placed at the top of the UK’s agenda for its presidency of the G8, which consists of the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada and Japan.
But the summit has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria.
The G8 leaders – including Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad – backed calls for Syrian peace talks to be held in Geneva “as soon as possible”.
David Cameron said the leaders had managed “to overcome fundamental differences”, but no timetable for the Geneva talks was given, and the statement made no mention of what role Bashar al-Assad could play in the future.
Leaders agreed that multinationals should tell all tax authorities about what taxes they pay and where.
“Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes,” the communiqué said.
G8 leaders have agreed new measures to clamp down on money launderers, illegal tax evaders and corporate tax avoiders
It follows revelations about the ways in which several major firms – including Apple, Starbucks and Amazon – have minimized their tax bills.
Illegal activities, including tax evasion and money laundering, will be tackled by the automated sharing of tax information.
Ahead of the summit, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), proposed to share tax information by building on an existing system set up by the US and five major European economies, but on a global scale.
“This international tax tool is going to be a real feature of ensuring that we get proper tax payment and proper tax justice in our world,” said David Cameron, who claimed that it meant “those who want to evade taxes have nowhere to hide”.
The OECD includes all of the G8 members except Russia.
Among the information to be shared will be who actually ultimately benefits from the shadowy shell companies, special purpose companies and trust arrangements often employed by tax evaders and money launderers.
Earlier in the day, Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans for a UK register of companies and their owners.
The White House also announced a similar plan for the US.
Last week the UK also unveiled a deal with its crown dependencies and overseas territories – including the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and Anguilla – to start sharing more information on which foreign companies bank their profits there.
About a fifth of offshore tax havens, which are used by multinationals to shelter cash from the tax authorities, are British dependencies.
“Of course Britain’s got to put its own house in order,” said George Osborne, adding that the government would launch a consultation on whether the register should be published or just be available to the HMRC.
Speaking during the summit, George Osborne said more progress had been made on reforming the global tax system in the past 24 hours than the “past 24 years”.
The G8 communiqué also demanded more transparency from mining firms.
It follows revelations that many major mining companies use complex ownership structures in the Netherlands and Switzerland to avoid paying taxes on the minerals they extract in developing countries.
“Developing countries should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them,” the communiqué said.
“Other countries have a duty to help them.”
The governments agreed that mining companies should disclose all the payments they make, and that “minerals should not be plundered from conflict zones”.
“We agreed that oil, gas and mining companies should report what they pay to governments, and that governments should publish what they receive, so that natural resources are a blessing and not a curse,” said David Cameron.
The G8 leaders also agreed to stamp out ransom payments to kidnappers for the release of hostages.
David Cameron said tens of millions of dollars in ransom money had been paid around the world in the last three years.
Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have acknowledged at the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland that they have a different stance on Syria, but agreed to push for a summit in Geneva.
After face-to-face talks, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin said they shared a common desire to end the violence.
Both also said they were optimistic on Iran, after its presidential election.
Earlier, the G8 nations discussed the global economy, with the leaders agreeing world prospects remained weak.
The G8 leaders are now heading to a working dinner, where Syria is likely to be top of the agenda.
Other nations joining the UK, US and Russia for the 39th Summit of the Group of Eight (G8) in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, are Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama met for about two hours on the sidelines of the summit.
Correspondents say that both leaders looked tense as they addressed journalists afterwards, with the Russian president regularly looking at the floor.
Vladimir Putin said: “Our positions do not fully coincide, but we are united by the common intention to end the violence, to stop the number of victims increasing in Syria, to resolve the problems by peaceful means, including the Geneva talks.”
Barack Obama said the two leaders had instructed their teams to press ahead with trying to organize the peace conference in Switzerland.
Neither the rebels nor the Syrian government have yet fully committed to the proposed Geneva talks, which would seek to end more than two years of unrest that has left an estimated 93,000 people dead.
Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin did say that they had agreed to meet in Moscow in September.
Earlier UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting the summit, had said he hoped to find “common ground” on Syria.
The US said last week it was prepared to arm opposition forces, saying it had evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons on a “small scale”.
David Cameron, who backed the recent lifting of EU arms sanctions against the rebels, said on Monday that no decision had yet been made on whether the UK would do the same.
In an interview in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday, President Bashar al-Assad denied that his military had used chemical weapons, and warned that arming the rebels would result in “the direct export of terrorism to Europe”.
“Terrorists will return to fight, equipped with extremist ideology,” he said.
US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland
On Monday, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said of the possibility of a no-fly zone over Syria: “I think we fundamentally would not allow this scenario.”
The formal talks on Monday covered the global economy.
In their statement after the session, the leaders said prospects remained weak but added that action in the US, Japan and eurozone had helped ease the situation.
“Downside risks in the euro area have abated over the past year, but it remains in recession.
“The US recovery is continuing and the deficit is declining rapidly in the context of a continuing need for further progress towards balanced medium-term fiscal sustainability.”
Ahead of the first session, the US and EU members of the G8 announced that negotiations were to begin on a wide-ranging free-trade deal.
David Cameron, Barack Obama and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso held a press conference on the proposed EU-US deal.
The British prime minister said a successful agreement would have a greater impact than all other world trade deals put together.
“This is a once-in-a-generation prize and we are determined to seize it,” said David Cameron.
He said the deal “could add as much as £100 billion [$157 billion; 117 billion euros] to the EU economy, £80 billion to the US economy and as much as £85 billion to the rest of the world”.
Barack Obama said the deal was a priority for the US and he hoped that it would create an economic alliance as strong as the diplomatic and security alliances the two sides enjoyed.
G8 Summit agenda
- 15:45: Official arrivals
- 16:45: Global economy
- 18:15: Bilateral meetings
- 20:00: Foreign policy
- 07:00: Bilateral meetings
- 08:30: Counter-terrorism
- 10:30: Tax transparency
- 14:30: Closing talks
- 15:30: UK PM press conference
- 15:45: Other leaders’ press conferences
(All timings BST)
Angelina Jolie’s scraped back hairdo revealed her abundance of grey hairs as she made an appearance at the G8 Foreign Ministers Summit in London on Thursday.
Angelina Jolie, the UN’s special envoy for refugees, was dressed in all black, with a simple dress and overcoat to attend the high level summit at where she spoke out against sexual violence against women and children in war zones.
The star accessorized her conservative look with a simple strand of pearls and matching earrings.
Angelina Jolie’s presence at the conference no doubt shined a much needed spotlight on the cause.
Angelina Jolie’s scraped back hairdo revealed her abundance of grey hairs as she made an appearance at the G8 Foreign Ministers Summit in London
The Human Rights and Communications team at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office tweeted part of the actress’s speech.
Angelina Jolie said: “Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been sexually assaulted in the wars of our generation. But wartime rape is not inevitable.
“This violence can be prevented, and it must be confronted. I have heard survivors of rape from Bosnia to (the Congo) say that the world simply does not care about them.
“But today I believe that their voices have been heard, and that we finally have some hope to offer them.”
The actress continued: “It is encouraging to see men in leadership positions speaking out against rape. Rape is not a women’s issue, or a humanitarian issue, it is a global issue.”
Angelina Jolie and the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zanab Bangora, met with G8 foreign ministers as part of the two-day talks among eight world powers that are expected to focus on North Korea and the civil war in Syria.