Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated: New tax haven top story in The Economist: The missing $20 trillion

It's here. And well worth reading.

On this evidence, the Economist has come a very, very long way from its previous stance broadly in favour of tax havens as promoters of 'efficient' finance.  (They are anything but.)
 From the next article, Storm survivors:
Pressure on OFCs has since eased a little because they have all accepted, to differing degrees, that they need to exchange more information with their clients’ home countries. But they remain beleaguered as an increasingly confident band of “tax justice” campaigners pushes for more concerted action on tax evasion and avoidance, money-laundering and the proceeds of corruption. Tax avoidance, the grey area between compliance and evasion, has shot up the political agenda. 
A recent cover of Private Eye, a British satirical magazine, caught the national mood, showing Santa Claus being booed for living offshore. Governments have been rushing out action plans. Britain has put tax compliance and corporate transparency at the top of its list of priorities for its presidency of the G8 this year. America’s media often suggest that Congress yank money back from tax havens to alleviate the nation’s fiscal woes.
Here's another important section in the same article:
"The amount of money booked in those havens is unknowable, and so is the proportion that is illicit." 
That's quite right. Take just the many tens of thousands of British residential properties owned via offshore companies, typically registered in the British Virgin Islands. Given that those are likely the most expensive residential properties, many of those valued in the tens of millions of dollars, we are talking tens of billions of dollars just for that sector in that particular country.
"The data gaps are “daunting”, says Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti of the IMF. The Boston Consulting Group reckons that on paper roughly $8 trillion of private financial wealth out of a global total of $123 trillion sits offshore, but this excludes property, yachts and other fixed assets. James Henry, a former chief economist with McKinsey who advises the Tax Justice Network, a pressure group, believes the amount invested virtually tax-free offshore tops $21 trillion. His methodology is reasonably sophisticated but he admits his calculation is still “an exercise in night vision”.
The remainder are here.
Enduring charms
The OFCs’ economic role: The good, the bad and the Ugland
Onshore financial centres: Not a palm tree in sight
Tax transparency: Automatic response
Company taxation: The price isn’t right
The merry enablers
Switzerland and its rivals: Rise of the midshores
Who’s the criminal?
Prospects: Sunshine and shadows

(Midshores. This TJN blogger hasn't heard that one before. Interesting.)


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