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Alberto F. T. S.

Carbonar 1
Student: Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar
Teacher: Jessica Rohr
HSS/IEL Room 310
3 August 2014
Tax Havens and Economic Inequality:
Consequences to the humans globalization process
I Introduction
The human race is facing a new revolutionary period in the economic
currents. According to G20 leaders statements in the meeting that took place in London,
UK, in 2 April, 2009, The era of banking secrecy is over (G20, 2009). Changes are being
made by several countries with the aim to follow orientations of the Organization for
Economic Co-Operation and Development OECD to implement tax transparency and to
avoid tax evasion.
Since before the beginning of humans race for the globalizations process
(during the age of discovery in the 15th century), secrecy is considered an essential tool to
the development of international transactions, and also is used strategically to transact
business between nations. In the course of time, governments, financial institutions, and
international companies began to use secrecy to realize complex business transactions, and,
especially, to avoid taxation of countries with severe tax laws. (PALAN, 1) At this exact
moment, tax havens began to emerge.
According to Dhammika Dharmapala and James R. Hines Jr., tax haven is
a state, country or territory where certain taxes are levied at a low rate or not at all, which
are used by businesses for tax avoidance and tax evasion (Dharmapala; Hines Jr., 1). Yet,
as we will see in this study, one of the main characteristics of these territories is the lack of
transparency due to secret rulings created by their governments (Tax Haven Criteria,
2006 OECDs Report).
In this sense, secrecy is directly related to one of the main characteristics of
tax havens and because of that, tax transparency or exchange of tax information, is an
essential tool to fight against tax evasion in a globalized world. According to OECDs
report, Promoting Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, better
transparency and information exchange for tax purposes are key to ensuring that taxpayers

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 2
have no safe haven to hide their income and assets and that they pay right amount of tax in
the right place (Promoting Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax
Purposes, OECD, 2).
In this sense, the main purpose of this work is to analyze the importance of
tax transparency in the fight against tax evasion and tax havens, and how tax evasion is
related to one of the biggest concerns of human race: economic inequality. As we will see,
the gap between rich and poor is caused by several factors, as example we can cite,
corruption in governments, discrimination, lack of jobs opportunities, wars, lack of good
public system of education, among other reasons. But how we can relate economic
inequality to tax havens or tax evasion? This question will guide this work.
In order to better address this question, this work will be divided in four
sections: (i) Origin of the term Tax haven and recent cases of Tax evasion; (ii) Countries
considered as Tax Havens by OECD and their main characteristics; (iii) Is inequality one
of the consequences of tax evasion?; and (iv) How to fight against tax evasion.
In the first section we will discuss the historical information related to the
origin of the term tax haven to a have a better understanding of why countries and
international companies continue to support tax evasion and we also will verify recent cases
related to companies that are involved with tax evasion issues.
In the second section, we will discuss and analyze the reports made by
OECD that lists countries that are considered as tax havens and we will verify their main
characteristics. In the third section, we will explain why tax evasion is contributing to the
lack of global economic growth, and also we will describe how the lack of global economic
growth contributes to the increase of economic inequality in our world.
In the fourth section, we will point out OECDs orientations about measures
that countries can adopt to fight against tax evasion like the signing of international treaties
by OECDs members.
II Origin of the term Tax Haven and recent cases of Tax evasion
According to many historians, the first record of the usage of differing tax
laws between two or more countries to mitigate tax liability is from ancient Greece (Palan,
1). At that time, sea traders used some of the Greek Islands to deposit foreign goods with

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 3
the aim to avoid taxation imposed by the city-state of Athens (Palan, 1). During the 12th and
14th centuries, Confederation of Cinque Ports1 and staple ports2 also used the practice of tax
avoidance, respectively (Palan, 3). Later, in 1721, American colonies also avoided British
Taxes by trading goods with Latin America as Alvin Rabushka says in his book Taxation
in Colonial America (Rabushka, 267).
Besides the registrations above mentioned, the modern concept of the term
Tax Haven was developed after the end of World War I because of the economic policies
that were adopted by countries like Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg. In this sense,
Ronen Palan, the author of the article History of Tax Havens, says:
During 1920s and 1930s, a few small countries led by Switzerland
were beginning to make a name for themselves as tax havens.
Liechtenstein, a small principality located between Switzerland and
Austria, adopted the Swiss Franc as its currency in 1924, and at same
time enacted its own Civil Code. Liechtenstein, synthetized and
codified Swiss and Austrian practice, creating a new corporate form,
the infamous Anstalt, based on the Austrian concept of the Foundation.
The new Company Law imposed no requirements or restrictions
concerning the nationality of shareholders in Liechtenstein companies.
() Luxembourg as well was among to introduce the concept of the
holding company. Under the law of 31 July 1929, such companies
became exempt from income taxes. (Palan, 4)
According to Palan, Switzerland established the Banking Act of 1934 with
the purpose to strengthen the principle of bank secrecy. In accordance with the Article 47

1 The

Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. It was originally

formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. It lies at the eastern end of the English
Channel, where the crossing to the continent is narrowest. The name originates in Norman French, meaning
"five ports". (Cinque Ports, Wikipedia).
2

Staples Ports were ports covered by medieval agreements that required merchant barges or ships to unload

their goods at the port, and display them for sale for a certain period, often three days. Only after this option
had been given to the local customers was the trader allowed to reload his cargo and travel onwards with the
remaining unsold freight. Limited staple rights were sometimes given to towns along major trade-routes, e.g.
Grlitz obtained staple rights for salt and Woad. (Staple Rights, Wikipedia).

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 4
of the Swiss Law, Swiss banks needed to follow the orientation of absolute silence in
respect to a professional secret, what means absolute confidentiality from any government,
including the Swiss (Palan, 4).
Afterwards, other jurisdictions began to emerge as tax havens, such as the
British Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of the Man) in the early 1960s, and Cayman
Islands and Singapore in the late 1960s. According to Palan, the British Islands became tax
havens due to some British banks that have expanded their Euromarkets activities in these
places and also because of the three American Banks (Citibank, Chase Manhattan, and the
Bank of America) that went there in 1964 (Palan, 5). In 1966, Cayman Island established a
set of laws that followed the classical financial model of others tax havens (Palan, 5). Yet,
the Author assumes that Singapore became a tax haven during 1967 and 1968, because of
the increase of the foreign exchange expenditures in that region due to Vietnam War
(Palan, 5). For this reason, during these years, Singapore established several incentives for
branches of international banks to move in to the country.
From the 1950s onwards, tax havens became global. In this sense, Palan
says that the relative success of European and Caribbean tax havens brought in new
entrants to the game. The first Pacific tax haven was established in 1966, in Norfolk Island,
a self governing external territory of Australia (Palan, 5).
According to article South Pacific Tax Havens: From leaders in the race to
the bottom to laggards in the race to the top? written by Jason C. Sharman, once Norfolk
Island set the precedent in 1966, Vanuatu (1970-71), Nauru (1972), the Cook Islands
(1981), Tonga (1984), Samoa (1988), the Marshall Islands (1990), and Nauru (1994) have
increasingly taken the standard route of copying legislation from the current leaders in the
field and then engaging in fierce competition for business that has often generated only
thinnest of margins (Sharman, 6). In this sense, Palan states: all these havens introduced
familiar legislation modeled on the successful havens including provision for zero or nearzero taxation for exempt companies and non-residential companies, Swiss-style bank
secrecy laws, () and more recently establishing advantageous laws aimed at facilitating ecommerce and online gambling (Palan, 5).
In 1987, Ireland established the Irish Financial Services Centre in Dublin
with the aim to create a favorable tax regime for certain financial activities and low

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 5
corporate tax rate (12.5% in 2008) (Palan, 6). In October 1975, Bahrain set a policy of
licensing offshore banking units (OBUs), followed soon by Dubai (Palan, 6).
Consequently, during 1980s and 1990s, tax havens began to emerge around the world in
regions like Indian Ocean, Africa and post-Soviet republics (Palan, 6).
Nowadays, most international companies seek to save their profits in tax
havens, clearly, with intention to avoid income taxation. Recently, international companies
like Apple, Amazon UK and Google are appearing in news headlines due to tax scandals in
which they are involved.
Apple, for example, is holding more than USD $100 billion in tax havens to
avoid U.S. taxation (Apple avoiding Billions and Billions of Dollars in Taxes,
Huffington Post). In this case, Apple only paid $3.3 billion in taxes worldwide (what
represents less than 10%) when the company must pay approximately $35.3 billion,
according to U.S. tax rules.
In 2013, the Huffington Post published that Amazons UK unit paid only
USD $3.7 million on taxes despite the UK unit sales reached the value of $6.5 billion
(Amazons UK Unit Pays $3.7 Million in Taxes On $6.5 Billion In Sales, Huffington
Post). According to the article, Amazon.co.uk Limited reported the miniscule corporate
income tax bill because all sales to British customers are routed through a Luxembourg
affiliate, which pays the UK unit fees to cover its costs (Amazons UK Unit Pays $3.7
Million in Taxes On $6.5 Billion In Sales, Huffington Post).
Following the current, Google paid only USD $55 million on UK Taxes on
$ 5.5 Billion sales in 2012, according to Reuters and Huffington Post (Google Paid $55
Million In UK Taxes On $5.5 Billion Sales In 2012, Huffington Post).
After all considerations mentioned above, we will seek to understand what
are the main characteristics of tax havens in the next section, and also we will verify the tax
havens blacklist created by G20 and OECD.
III Countries considered as tax havens by G20 and OECD, and their main characteristics
According to the article published by The Economic Times in 2008, 41
countries were classified as tax havens in accordance with the OECDs criteria (41
countries are tax havens according to OECD criteria, The Economic Times). The initial

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 6
criteria used by the OECD was based on four main characteristics of tax havens, which are:
insignificant or non-existent tax levels; absence of transparency in tax matters; absence of
fiscal data exchange with other countries; and attractiveness for straw companies with
fictitious activities (41 countries are tax havens according to OECD criteria, The
Economic Times). The countries considered by OECD as tax havens are listed below:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Dutch Antilles; Aruba; The Bahamas; Bahrein;
Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Cyprus; Dominica; Gibraltar; Grenada; Guernesey; Cayman
Islands; Cook Islands; Isle of Man; Marshall; Islands Mauritious; British Virgin Islands;
US Virgin Islands; Jersey; Liberia; Maldives; Malta; Montserrat; Nauru; Niue; Panama;
Samoa; Saint Kitts et Nevis; Sainta Lucia; Saint Martin; Saint Vincent and the
Grenadines Seychelles; Tonga; Turks et Caicos; Vanuatu; Liechtenstein; Andora and
Monaco.
In the report Tax Havens and Development: Report by the Independent
Nowergian Comissions on Capital Flight from Developing Countries3, Fredril Eriksson, a
Senior Advisor of the Anti-Corruption Project of the Nowegian Agency for Development
(NORAD), explains the four main characteristics of tax havens and give some interesting
examples.
Eriksson explains that the first characteristic (insignificant or non-existent tax
levels) is related to a ring-fenced tax system that refers to one set of laws for companies
that conduct and manage their business in other states while enjoying zero tax conditions,
lax (or no) regulation, and secrecy (foreign investor legislation) (Eriksson, 4). The advisor
says that in these countries with a ring-fenced tax system the business concept is to earn
income on registration and administration fees (Eriksson, 4).
The second and third characteristics (absence of transparency in tax matters )
are related a specific legal system which includes the following attributes: a ring-fenced
tax system; absence of public registries or information of any kind; no obligation to deliver

3

This report was exposed during the OECDs event called The 2010 African Economic Outlook (AEO) in the

seminary about Taxation of Multinationals in Africa.

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 7
accounts (or no auditing and control); no preservation of records; legislation favors foreign
investors solely (escape clauses); exceptions and lax, if any, enforcement of regulation
(Eriksson, 5).
The fourth characteristic of tax havens (attractiveness for straw companies
with fictitious activities) is related with artificial structures, according to Eriksson. To
explain this characteristic, Eriksson cites in his report two examples. The first one is the
Ugland House 4 , a small building in Cayman Islands, where 12.478 companies are
registered and supposedly conduct their business (among them Coca Cola and Intel Corp.),
but no real activity is going on! (Eriksson, 6). The second example is related to the British
Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction with 19.000 inhabitants and 830.000 registered companies,
what means 43 companies per capita. According to Eriksson, both examples are
illustrative of the lack of activity of substance (Eriksson, 7).
Besides Erikssons observations on tax havens, G20 countries set up a new
agreement in 2009, following OECDs orientations, to define a new blacklist of countries
that could be considered as Tax Havens (G20 declares door shut on tax havens, The
Guardian). This list was divided in four sections based on compliance to an international
agreed tax standard created by the OECD. The sections at that moment were: countries
that have substantially implemented the standard (which included most countries); tax
havens that have committed to, but not yet fully implemented, the standard (included
Montserrat, Nauru, Niue, Panama, and Vanuatu); Financial centers that have committed to,
but not yet fully implemented, the standard (included Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Uruguai);
countries that have not committed to the standard (an empty category) (G20 declares
door shut on tax havens, The Guardian).
In accordance with OECDs orientation, to verify if any country can be
considered as a tax haven we need to analyze, at the first moment, if the jurisdiction have
no or nominal taxes. If this is the case, it will be necessary observe two other issues, which
are related to whether or not there is an exchange of information and transparency
(Harmful Tax Competition: An Emerging Global Issue, OECD). Having no or nominal

4

On January 5, 2008, President Barack Obama commented about Ugland House during a debate happened in

Machester: Either this is the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam. (US President Barack
Obama, Jan. 5, 2008, debate in Manchester N.H.).

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 8
taxes is not sufficient, by itself, to characterize a jurisdiction as a tax haven. The OECD
recognizes that every jurisdiction has a right to determine whether to impose direct
taxes and, if so, to determine the appropriate tax rate (Harmful Tax Competition: An
Emerging Global Issue, OECD).
The next topic will discuss the consequences of tax evasion and will explain how
economic inequality is directly related to the side effects caused by tax havens.
IV Is economic inequality one of the consequences of tax evasion?
In the report, Promoting Transparency and Exchange of Information for
Tax Purposes, OECD defends the position that tax avoidance and tax evasion threaten
government revenues through the world. () This translates into fewer resources for
infrastructure and affects the standard of living for all of us in both developed and
developing countries (Promoting Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax
Purposes, OECD, 2). With a similar perspective, Jane G. Gravelle, a senior specialist in
economic policy of the Congressional Research Service, says in her article, Tax Havens:
International Tax Avoidance and Evasion, that in the United States the revenue losses
from tax avoidance and evasion are difficult to estimate, but some have suggested that the
annual cost of offshore tax abuses may be around US$ 100 billion per year (GRAVELLE,
1). And then, she continues, international tax avoidance can arise from wealthy individual
investors and from a large multinational corporations; it can reflect both legal and illegal
actions (GRAVELLE, 1).
Naturally, after observing the value related to the annual cost of offshore tax
abuses per year pointed by Gravelle and if you relate this value with the OECDs report
about the impact of tax evasion on government revenues, it is possible to imagine how
much the American government will not invest in infrastructure and basic needs, and also is
possible to figure how much the American population is already losing without these
important governments investments that could be used with basic needs of mass people, for
example we can cite investments to develop the public educational system or the health
care system.

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 9
In his article, Tax Evasion & Avoidance, Nazib Zaman assumes that there
are several side effects that are caused by tax evasion and they have a great impact in
economic development (Zaman, 3). According to Zaman, its possible to say that:
Economic growth is co-related with budget. It is natural that higher
governments income to support to do a large budget helps to
accelerate economic development of a country. But due to tax evasion
and tax avoidance a lot amount of revenue is not collected. As a result
the government has to shortcut the budget. () The government has to
take various plans for economic development. But lack of fund the
plan cannot be implemented. If people would not evade tax, the
government could implement plans. Due to tax evasion and tax
avoidance the government cannot ensure the employment opportunity.
Because the government needs fund to create employment opportunity.
It also hampers structural development such as roads, bridges,
transportation, industrial development, etc. Social security cannot be
provided fully by the government due to lack of fund. Tax evasion and
tax avoidance is the main obstacle to create sufficient fund. (Zaman,
3)
Furthermore, Zaman also defends that tax evasion directly contributes to the
increasing of economic inequality because it affects the distribution function of wealth of
the government and adversely affects the economic development of a country (Zaman, 4).
Yet, Zaman understands that due to tax evasion, a huge amount of tax revenue is lost. As a
result the government cannot provide basic needs for mass people. (Zaman, 4).
According to the article The True Cost of Hidden Money published by
New York Times in June 15, 2014, Gabriel Zucman (an assistant economics professor at
the London School of Economics) estimates that USD $7.6 trillion (8% percent of the
worlds personal financial wealth) is stashed in tax havens (Leslie, 1).
In this sense, tax evasion clearly causes a severe impact in the economic
development of a country, and more than this, tax havens are contributing directly to the
lack of economic growth in the world and to the increasing of economic inequality.

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 10
Because of this the next section will discuss the measures that countries can adopt to fight
against tax evasion.
VI How to fight against tax evasion?
In the article On Liberty, The Right to Know, and Public Discourse: The
Role of Transparency in Public Life, Joseph Stiglitz, the former Vice President and Chief
Economist of the World Bank, says that one of the major attributes of a good tax system is
transparency (Stiglitz, 4).
Transparency and exchange of tax information are major strategies adopted
by OECD in its orientations to the international community on the fight against tax havens
and tax evasion. In his report (Tax Havens and Development), Eriksson points out
international and national proposals to fight against Tax Havens and Tax Evasion. The
international proposal its already in progress and is related to the creation of one
international convention on transparency in international economic activities and
transactions (Eriksson, 10).
In 2001, OECD member countries established the Global Forum on
Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (The Global Forum) along
with a number of participating partners with the aim to develop international standards of
transparency and exchange of tax information. Actually, the Global Forum includes 120
member jurisdictions and the European Union, together with 12 observers, making it the
largest tax group in the world (Tax Transparency 2013, 14).
The second proposal (national proposal) made by Eriksson in his work is
related with the following measures: more legal tools to combat manipulated transfer
pricing; those who facilitate tax haven registration should register their activities; set up a
competence center international tax and public finance (Eriksson, 10). Eriksson also
suggests that multinationals annual accounts must show where they have affiliates (and
affiliates of affiliates); and how much they pay in tax percentage of taxable income
(Eriksson, 10).
Besides Eriksson proposals, OECD is already fighting tax havens. In the
progress report on OECD work on tax havens, since the April 2009 G20 London Summit,
almost 300 tax agreements have been signed to OECD standards on tax transparency and

Alberto F. T. S. Carbonar 11
effective exchange of information. All OECD and G20 countries are committed to these
standards (A progress report on OECD work on tax havens, OECD).

VII Conclusion
After all considerations made in this study, it is possible to assume that
economic inequality is one of the several side effects caused by tax havens. According to
Eriksson, harmfull effects of tax havens are much wider than only losses in tax revenues
(Eriksson, 8). Eriksson explains that tax havens facilitates money laundering of the
proceeds of drugs and trafficking; facilitates financing of terrorism; destabilizes the
financial system by hiding risks; facilitates corruption and economic crimes; and, certainly,
facilitates tax evasion and avoidance (Eriksson, 8). Yet, Eriksson establishes that in tax
havens parts of its regulation is primarily of benefit to those not resident within their
territorial domain (Eriksson, 8) and regulation exists that prevent the identification of
those who use its regulations and resident outside that jurisdiction (Eriksson, 8). All these
side effects mentioned above that are created by tax havens are also related to the principle
of secrecy and thats why is so important to use transparency in countries fiscal policy to
avoid tax evasion.
Clearly, Tax evasion directly contributes to the lack of economic growth in
the world, and in accordance with Jacques Leslie, journalist of The New York Times,
there is no economic, political or moral justification for tax evasion it exists only
because of the political influence that wealth buys. A society that fails to fight widespread
tax evasion proclaims its own corruption (LESLIE, 3).

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