Global poverty will never be beaten unless poor countries can stop big business and rich elites from dodging tax and stealing wealth, a report says.
Poorer nations are losing $500bn (£270bn) a year in revenues to prosperous international tax dodgers, UK charity Christian Aid argues.
Responsible tax regimes are needed in the fight against poverty, it says.
The warning comes ahead of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals summit in New York this week.
Christian Aid says there is little hope that the goals (MDGs) will be achieved by the 2015 deadline set by the UN to halve world poverty.
Giant business conglomerates and some of the world’s large accountancy firms and bank came under fire in Christian Aid’s report, a joint effort with the Tax Justice Network.
Many big businesses secrete company funds in tax havens outside the poor countries they are working in, according to the report.
By taking advantage of offshore banks, companies, banks, multinationals and some rich individuals manage to dodge national taxes, the charity says.
The “illicit capital flight” costs $500bn a year in lost revenues, a sum that dwarfs annual overseas aid, Christian Aid claims.
Meanwhile, public services and infrastructure in poorer countries has been left to crumble because of a lack of public money.
“Tax is the forgotten issue in the debate about how to tackle poverty,” said Andrew Pendleton, senior policy adviser at Christian Aid.
Tax issues must be added to trade, debt and aid if the world is serious about meeting the MDGs, he said.
“Corrupt leaders, criminals and terrorists are hiding away their ill-gotten gains by piggybacking on the systems set up for tax avoidance.”