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The Paradise Papers- What about the EU tax havens?

Global Investment Banks have created a web of vehicles for dodging tax.  The Panama Papers, Luxembourg Leaks and the Paradise Papers show how these banks are syphoning billions away from the Tax Authorities globally.

What is happening is that International Banks effectively own offshore tax havens. They supply most of the revenue to these tiny countries, finance their governments and when necessary pay local politicians to obtain their ends. Don’t believe this? Consider the facts: “More than 40,000 companies were registered in the Cayman Islands as of 2000, including almost 600 banks and trust companies with banking assets exceeding $500 billion.” Wikipedia.  Yet the Cayman Islands has only 56,000 people. It is the same story for the Virgin Islands etc.

Many island tax havens are British Overseas Territories which means they get UK protection from invasion and relief in emergencies but are otherwise self governing. Most of these have been told by the UK that they can be independent if they so desire. Other tax havens are small countries like Luxembourg, Belize and Panama.  The world of International Finance and Banking controls these places. The Panama Papers etc. have opened a window on how this International Finance and Banking operates, an example of one of the leaks will be discussed below and then the problem of International Finance will be considered.

You may be thinking “Luxembourg Leaks”?? The reason you may not have heard of these is that the Chairman of the BBC Trust, until the end of 2016 was Rona Fairhead who was also a director of HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) that was at the centre of this Tax Evasion/Avoidance scandal. Fairhead has now been appointed a trade minister to mollify the “soft brexit” lobby in the government.  Notice that the Government will dismiss a minister for touching a woman’s knee but elevates Rona Fairhead, who approved of the British taxpayer being deprived of billions in tax, to a ministerial post.

The “Lux Leaks” are actually the most significant of the recently leaked files.   Luxembourg does not charge tax on interest payments and has very low tax rates on payments for intellectual property such as brand names, patents, distribution rights etc.  Multinational Corporations are able to charge their subsidiaries interest and make charges for intellectual property and take this income in Luxembourg (courtesy of the open borders of EU Single Market).

Which corporations are involved? The Irish Times extracted the following list: Amazon, Accenture, Abbott Laboratories, American International Group (AIG),  Blackstone, Deutsche Bank, the Coach handbag empire, HJ Heinz, IKEA, JP Morgan Chase, Burberry, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, the Carlyle Group and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.  All of these had been using HSBC, the banker that controlled the BBC through its Chairman.

In fact most Multinational Corporations can be suspected of using the EU-created Luxembourg route to avoid tax in the EU. Some are so powerful that smaller media outlets dare not challenge them and many were not in the “Lux Leaks” because they did not use HSBC. Microsoft uses Luxembourg to avoid tax on £1.7bn a year UK profit but the Irish Times did not include them in their list. It has just been reported that Apple has been shown in the Paradise papers to have avoided almost all tax in the EU.  Basically we must assume that ALL Multinational Corporations operating in the EU have been using the EU sanctioned routes to dodge tax.   You should be glad to learn that those who provided the “Lux Leaks” had their sentences reduced on appeal .

The icing on the cake of EU laws for Multinationals and Banks is that having got money to a low tax destination in the EU the Dutch still let you ship it anywhere in the world.

The real problem here is not Microsoft and the Queen dodging tax, it is the International Finance industry providing a global infrastructure for tax dodging.  Tax avoidance by Multinational Corporations costs the UK billions of pounds a year. Recovering this tax could end Austerity.  The focus of the media on the singer Bono or the Queen is a deliberate distraction from the real problem and this should make us reflect on the sheer power of the International Finance industry.

The key players in the International Finance industry are the International Banks, especially HSBC, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and the international consultancies from Accenture to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC).  The banks effectively own the tax havens and adjust local laws to permit the massaging of money into their coffers.  The international consultancies and smaller investment banks sell the International bank products to their wealthy corporate and private clients.  Tax Havens are like the Pirate Kingdoms of Old except instead of Henry Morgan as Governor there is a Cabal of Bankers.

The way to stop International Finance from providing tax avoidance products is to charge tax on all overseas transfers of money unless these are clearly and fairly justifiable.  Banks that deal with foreign transfers of money would have a legal obligation to declare any that exceeded, say, £20,000 total in a year, to the tax authorities.  Taxation experts would then need to judge whether these transfers were bona-fide or for tax avoidance (such as spurious payments for the use of a brand name etc). If tax avoidance were suspected then the transfer would be taxed as if it were profits.  In tax jargon a “withholding tax” would be charged.

Taxing foreign transfers as profits is complex because, for instance, nearly 80% of the components of Vauxhall cars produced in Ellesmere Port come from the EU, and require transfers of cash out of the UK.  There would need to be spot checks on such imports to ensure that they were being acquired at competitive prices.  It would be impossible to police this within the EU Single Market.

One thing that is absolutely certain is that the EU has been a key player in setting up tax avoidance schemes for Multinational Corporations – after all, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, was Prime Minister of Luxembourg during the whole period covered by the Lux Leaks and has not been held to account anywhere. It must be assumed, even if it is subsequently found to be an unfair assumption, that Juncker was owned by the banks in Luxembourg and is still owned by them and that his appointees are equally dubious.

Bernie Sanders pointed out the obvious truth that there is an International Oligarchy intent upon extracting money from the People whilst avoiding the costs of training, welfare, sustainability and health.  This Oligarchy is composed of International Bankers and Multinational Corporations and the media focus on the odd rich actor or businessman is a distraction from who is really behind all this.  The Bankers and Multinational Corporations are organised and out to make the world their fiefdom.

It was the organised, International Oligarchy that financed Remain in the Referendum –  see Funding of the StrongerIn Campaign in the EU Referendum. Those who support Remaining in the EU either “don’t get it”, are indoctrinated or are working for the bad guys.

Postscript: The EU Anti Tax Avoidance Directive does not address transfers such as those in the Lux Leaks. It applies to transfers into and out of the EU and, as noted above, the Dutch don’t seem to have heard about it.  It was a smoke screen to persuade people that something was being done.   Tax avoidance is a property of a system that has free movement of trade and capital but various rates of tax in its different states.  Tax avoidance is a property of the Single Market.

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog: http://pol-check.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-paradise-files-what-about-bankers.html

About John Sydenham

Profile photo of John Sydenham

Dr John Sydenham has worked in International Pharmaceuticals and for one of the “big four” International Consultancies. He ran a successful company for 15 years and after selling the company devotes his time to travel, science, black labradors and freedom.

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One comment

  1. Profile photo of Isaac Anderson

    It’s not every day I will echo Senator Sanders, but I agree with you both on this! The BBC page on the Paradise Papers was clearly hyped up – did nobody think that the Queen of the Cayman Islands can have a bank account there? It’s hardly “offshore investments” for HM, is it?

    Nice to have things in perspective – well done and thanks.

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