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Obama says tax evasion is a problem

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US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the revelations that politicians, business leaders and celebrities hid money through offshore companies shows that tax evasion is "a big problem."

"Tax evasion is a global problem," said Obama, after the investigative reporting on documents from the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca, led by 109 media in 76 countries that was organized by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

"It does not happen only in other countries, because there are people in the United States who also benefit from this", he added. "To a large extent it is legal, that is the problem."

Obama made these statements a day after the Treasury Department announced it will adjust rules to prevent "tax inversion," which is when U.S. companies merge with foreign firms to move their headquarters abroad - though not its operations - to evade paying taxes in the United States.

Such operations - such as the $160 billion merger between the pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Allergan - exploit legal gaps that allow companies to "evade the just payment of taxes in the country," added Obama.

The president called on Congress to reform the tax system in order to eliminate loopholes allowing to evade payment of taxes.

The tax rules "are so permissive that if people have enough lawyers and sufficient accountants, they can escape their responsibilities," he said.

On Monday, the White House presented a revised version of its tax reform plan, which has been blocked since 2012 by Congress, arguing that reforms are more urgent than before, in view of the increase in mergers and acquisitions.

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