Foreign investors lost $17.39bn last year by failing to claim refunds on taxed dividends and income, according to tax specialist firm Goal Group.

According the group’s study, US investors chalked up the most losses with $1.65bn, followed by UK investors.

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According to statistics from the IMF and global stock exchanges, the market capitalisation of global equities rose 79% between 2001 and 2009, while the value of crossborder equity investment rose 163% over the same period.

Stephen Everard, chief executive officer of Goal Group, believes that a substantial proportion of investors will lose a large portion of their gains by letting them languish in foreign tax regimes and failing to reclaim withholding tax.

He said: “All players in the fund management community should take the issue seriously and make every endeavour to enhance investors’ returns. Technology is widely available today to automatically perform the highly complex task of reclaiming withholding tax, a process which has to incorporate varying data, formats and procedures from a multiplicity of different legislatures around the globe.”