There is, in our view, a clear and substantial public interest in elected representatives fully disclosing their sources of income and their tax payments. Elected representatives are paid by taxpayers to make decisions on taxation and on how our money is spent on behalf of all of us.
The aim is to ensure transparency, accountability and an avoidance of wrongdoing and potential conflicts of interest. We believe such moves can only strengthen the trust between the public and those who choose to serve on our behalf.
The inspiration for the Tax Disclosure Project was esteemed Pakistani journalist, Umar Cheema, a board member of Finance Uncovered and a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
In 2012, Umar, who two years earlier had been kidnapped and beaten up after writing stories critical of the government, contacted all 446 federal legislators in Pakistan asking them to disclose their tax returns. Only two responded.
He then trawled through Pakistan’s Electoral Commission to obtain the national tax numbers of politicians. Thanks to a whistleblower who helped check their tax records, Umar established that around 70% of Pakistan’s lawmakers, including the country’s President, and 34 ministers did not file tax returns.
The impact of his follow-up report in 2013 was phenomenal. Today every politician in Pakistan makes public his or her tax data. In fact, every Pakistani citizen’s tax details are published annually in a public directory.
Umar is now a board member of Finance Uncovered and is helping to lead this project.
Finance Uncovered , a London-based reporting and training project, is coordinating this campaign. Finance Uncovered equips journalists and campaigners with skills and tools to investigate illicit finance and then helps our growing global network, now 207-strong in 69 countries, get investigations and reports into the public domain.
Journalists from Argentina, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Venezuela are so far taking part in the Tax Disclosure Project.
Our number include award winning journalists who are members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project – and who have risked their lives to carry out their work.
This is a project they believe in – and which could make a real difference.
If you are a journalist from a country not so far involved and wish to be part of this project please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.