26 November 2011

Tax Haven Secrecy

Treasure Islands by Nicholas Shaxson, 2011, Excerpts
Tax havens don’t just offer an escape from tax. They also provide wealthy and powerful elites with secrecy and all manner of ways to shrug off the laws and duties that come along with living in and obtaining benefits from society – taxes, prudent financial regulation, criminal laws, inheritance rules, and many others. Offering these escape routes is the tax havens’ core line of business. It is what they do.

Offshore secrecy shifts control over information and the power that flows from it toward the insiders, helping then take the cream and use the system to shift the costs and risks onto the rest of society.

These zones of ultra-freedom for financial interests are so often repressive places, viciously intolerant of criticism. The offshore world is steeped in a pervasive inverted morality: Turning a blind eye to crime and corruption has become good business practice: a way of attracting money; while alerting forces of law and order to wrong doing has become the punishable offense. Here in the tax havens, rugged individualism has morphed into disregard, even a contempt, for democracy and for societies at large.

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