“We are not a tax haven.” They all say that

   0   0 Blog, Regular Features, Secrecy


This is slightly updated version of a blog we wrote a while ago: a useful reminder of the theatre of probity that tax havens employ to try and appear clean.

This blogger used to live in South Africa, not long after the end of Apartheid, where one of the common refrains he heard was “I am not a racist, but . . . ” – usually followed by an ugly tirade, demonstrating exactly the opposite proposition.

The point of this little story is not to put down the tremendous strides that South Africa has taken in terms of national reconciliation. The point is to draw attention to a similar turn of phrase: “We are not a tax haven, but . . .”

For good reason, tax havens have a bad name, and the purveyors of offshore murk regularly try to persuade others that theirs is a clean business. Idly searching the internet, it is easy to find countless examples of this, often using the hitherto rather weak efforts of international bodies such as the OECD and the Financial Action Task Force – which have, in effect, legitimised the illegitimate — to support their bogus claims. Usually, the arguments they make are complex, slippery, and need to tread carefully around several large elephants in the room to make their point.

Here are a few examples, all from notable dirty-money centres, which seek to bestow upon themselves rather grander names, such as “international financial centre”

Monaco is not a tax haven, but there’s no income tax

Cayman is not a tax haven

Call Ireland a tax haven, and set off storms of protest

It’s official! Jersey is not a tax haven

Delaware is not an international tax haven or facilitator of money laundering

Isle of Man is not a tax haven

The British Virgin Islands: not a tax haven!

Bermuda is not a tax haven . .

Switzerland is not a tax haven: the OECD says so!

Luxembourg is not a tax haven . .

Singapore is not a tax haven, but . . .

Guernsey is not a tax haven . .

Barbados is no tax haven . .

The Netherlands Antilles is not a tax haven.

Malta is not a tax haven. . .

Aruba is not a tax haven . .

Mauritius is not a tax haven, but . . .

Cyprus is not a tax haven

Panama is not a tax haven

This list stops here, simply because this blogger got tired, and needs a cup of tea.

On this evidence, tax havens don’t exist!

Here’s a handy tip: if you want to know if a jurisdiction is a tax haven or not, consult this list, especially if it’s secrecy you’re interested in.

Once again, it’s all part of the essential and strenuous performance of rectitude that they all put on, in order to avoid the taint. Explore all that here.

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About The Author

Nicholas Shaxson is a journalist and writer on the staff of Tax Justice Network. He is author of the book Poisoned Wells about the oil industry in Africa, published in 2007, and the more recent Treasure Islands: Tax havens and the Men who Stole the World, published by Random House in January 2011. He lives in Berlin
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