Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Leopards

In May 2007 the US Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing under the title "Offshore Tax Evastion: Stashing Cash Overseas." Two senior officials from the UK tax havens of Jersey and Guernsey made written submissions to the committee, saying that these islands are complying with the requirements of international tax agents and other regulatory authorities. In other words, they claim to have cleaned up. In a piece entitled "The Leopards have not changed their spots," Richard Murphy explains how these jurisdictions have tried to hoodwink the Americans.

Jersey is deliberately creating structures and procedures for use by its financial services industry that will result in information not being available for exchange under internationally agreed arrangements, so nullifying their effect.

As pressure mounts for tax havens to exchange information,they are reacting by ensuring that they either do not have that information, or by providing mechanisms that make it both harder to secure, and easier for it to flee. The result is that corruption in places like Jersey can no longer be tackled at the transaction level. Put simply, transaction data will soon be unavailable or will be in perpetual transit between tax haven locations. As such offshore corruption can now only be tackled at the systemic level. This requires a changed approach. The corrupt user of tax haven services is no longer the problem; the corruption of the tax havens is the problem now.

As Richard puts it, it is time to tackle the suppliers of corruption services if the integrity of the world’s economy, taxation systems and democracies is to remain intact. Tax havens are at the heart of this challenge to the way we live.

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