LONDON (AP) -- Hundreds of economists urged world leaders Monday to end the era of tax havens, arguing they only benefit rich individuals and multinational corporations and serve to increase inequality.
The 300 economists, in a letter coordinated by activist group Oxfam, say poorer countries are hit hardest by tax dodging. The signatories , including Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute and author Thomas Piketty, argue there is no economic justification for tax havens and urge leaders to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding them.
"As the Panama Papers and other recent exposs have revealed, the secrecy provided by tax havens fuels corruption and undermines countries' ability to collect their fair share of taxes," the letter said. "While all countries are hit by tax dodging, poor countries are proportionately the biggest losers, missing out on at least $170 (billion) of taxes annually as a result."
The letter comes days before an anti-corruption summit in London, featuring politicians from 40 countries as well as representatives from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Economists from Harvard, Oxford and the London School of Economics were among the signatories.
Many of the companies that featured in the leak of the so-called Panama Papers were incorporated in British Overseas Territories and the British Virgin Islands.
"The existence of tax havens does not add to overall global wealth or well-being; they serve no useful economic purpose," the letter said. "Whilst these jurisdictions undoubtedly benefit some rich individuals and multinational corporations, this benefit is at the expense of others, and they therefore serve to increase inequality."