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Some Wealthy People “Hiding” Money To Avoid Taxes

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Countries with politicians, public officials or close associates implicated in the leak on April 3, 2016. Image: JCRules
Countries with politicians, public officials or close associates implicated in the leak on April 3, 2016. Image: JCRules

This week, news came out that some people have been avoiding paying their countries’ taxes. Even more surprising, some of the people accused are leaders of their countries.

The “tax avoidance” may not be illegal, but it doesn’t look good, to say the least.

A “tax” is money that is pooled from everyone and used for programs that benefit everyone in that country, like space exploration or the Armed Forces. (This is a simple definition of taxes–they are more complicated than this, but this will give you an idea.)

However, if your money is sent away to certain other countries whose tax laws are different, then you may not have to pay taxes on that money. This is known as a “tax haven.”

According to a company called Mossack Fonseca, in Panama, many wealthy people around the world (including Canada) have been using “tax havens.”

Some of the people accused of doing this are British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the leaders of China, Ukrain and Pakistan. Also accused is Sigmunder David Gunnlaugsoon, the Prime Minister of Iceland. People in Iceland have been protesting against his use of tax havens.

This information was uncovered by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, who received the information from a “source.” The newspaper shared the information with “global media partners, including CBC News, through the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,” the CBC said on their website.

This kind of reporting is known as “investigative journalism.” Often, it is very complicated and time-consuming and involves reading large, complicated financial documents. It is typically very difficult, and can sometimes even be dangerous.

Now that the information has surfaces, people around the world are looking to their leaders for an explanation.

Note to young “news consumers”: Facts about this story will unfold over the next days, months and even years. It is important to keep in mind that the information has not been legally or officially confirmed. In other words, these people have been accused of using tax havens, but that alone does not mean they did it. They have not been charged with any crime. As news consumers read about this ongoing story, it is important to look for all of the various “points of view” and keep an open mind.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The first sentence of the article explains that many people have been accused of avoiding paying their taxes. The second sentence states, “Even more surprising, some of the people accused are leaders of their countries.” Do you think that leaders should be held to a higher standard than everyone else? Should they be expected to have stronger values and morals that ‘regular’ people? 

Reading Prompt: Demonstrating Understanding
The article explains the unravelling story and then there is a note at the end of the story to young “news consumers”. Why do you think the journalist wrote this note? What do you think she meant when she wrote that “it is important to look for all of the various ‘points of view’ and keep an open mind.”

Junior
Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing and explaining important ideas and citing relevant supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Intermediate
Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing important ideas and citing a variety
of details that support the main idea (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Language Feature: Quotation Marks
In this article, quotation marks are used several times. How are they used? How did they help you to read and understand the article?