Barack Obama has called for international tax reform in the wake of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers.
In an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room, Obama described the revelations from the leaks as “important stuff” and said the issue of global tax avoidance was a “huge problem”.
Obama’s intervention came as the leak of 11.5m files from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca continued to create uproar and upheaval around the world.
The prime minister of Iceland was forced to step aside after revelations about his offshore tax arrangements.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, defended his family’s tax arrangements after disclosures about an offshore fund established by his late father.
Gianni Infantino, the new president of Fifa, the world governing body for football, was cauught up in the sport’s corruption scandal over past TV deals. Infantino denied any wrongdoing.
“There is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem,” Obama told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.”
The US president said the leak from Panama illustrated the scale of tax avoidance involving Fortune 500 companies and running into trillions of dollars worldwide.
“We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes,” he added, praising instead “the basic principle of making sure everyone pays their fair share”.