Iraq Deaths Estimator

Live Blog

«

"SPILL BABY SPILL"
"Let's Fill Up the Land Rover and Drive to the Mall!" | Main |
Gaddafi's Fellow Travelers
James S. Henry
»

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

TAX OFFSHORE LOOT!
A Modest Proposal for Improving Global Tax Justice NOW
James S. Henry

Robin460

(Note: The following article also recently appeared in Forbes.)

How can we get the world's wealthiest scoundrels – arms dealers, dictators, drug barons, tax evaders – to help us pay for the soaring costs of deficits, disaster relief, climate change, and development?

Simple: levy a modest withholding tax on untaxed private offshore loot

Many above-ground economies around the world are struggling, but Fatrich the global economic underground is booming. By my estimate, there's $15 to $20 trillion of private wealth sitting offshore in bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and hedge fund portfolios, completely untaxed.

Money_laundering Much of this offshore wealth derives from capital flight and the proceeds of past and present tax evasion. Another key source is crime. At least a third comes from developing countries -- more than their outstanding foreign debt.   This wealth is incredible concentrated. Nearly half of it is owned by 91,000 people -- 0.001% of the world's population.  Ninety percent is owned by the planet's wealthiest 10 million people.

146082857v8_225x225_Front Let's tax it. The pile of offshore anonymous loot is now large enough so that even a very modest 0.5% global withholding tax would yield at least $50 to $100 billion a year.

This "global scofflaw tax" could be used to help pay our own staggering unpaid bills for debt service, retirement insurance, and heath care, as well as the developing world's bills for disaster relief and climate change.

By reducing incentives for capital flight and tax evasion, a tax on illicit, anonymous wealth would also help countries to depend less heavily on debt, inflationary finance, and regressive taxes.

Is it feasible?   Yes. The majority of these assets are managed Alg_ubs by the top 50 global banks. As of September 2009, these banks accounted for $8.1 trillion of all offshore assets under management -- 72% of the offshore industry's total. The top 10 banks manage 40 percent.

Images-1 In other words, the real "tax haven" problem is not tiny island havens on the periphery of the system. The real problem is the global "pirate banking" industry, with an assist by the best lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists money can buy. At its core are the world's true tax havens: institutions like JPMorganChase, UBS, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Barclay's, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Pictet & Cie, Goldman Sachs, and ABN Amro. They are all based, not in picturesque principalities or remote tropical paradises, but in New York, London, Amsterdam, Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, and Singapore.  They fall firmly under the jurisdiction of First World government agencies.3253574971_c8494b57aa_o

Capital may be "mobile," but it rarely travels without an escort. For  decades these institutions have operated "Capital Flight Air," recruiting clients and teaching them how to hide wealth offshore, launder it, and access it remotely.

Now they are going to help us tax it.

Images-3 These highly-visible institutions should be required to withhold a 0827wyly modest 0.5% tax, prorated each quarter, on the value of their clients' assets – which they already track on a daily basis. The proceeds could be turned over to First World tax authorities, with a disproportionate share dedicated to development aid.

Only anonymous wealth should be taxed. If the beneficial owners can show they're paying taxes on their offshore assets back home, they can claim rebates. Most will just pay up.

Images Over time, we can continue to chip away at "tax havens," trying to make the world's 80-odd havens less secret while helping developing countries enforce their own tax codes.Images-2

But that's a long war. The haven system has taken decades to build,  and it will probably take decades to dismantle. Right now there's something simple that OECD countries can do to collect badly-needed revenue from the world's wealthiest crooks – no questions asked.

August 4, 2010 at 05:28 PM | Permalink

Comments

Post a comment