LOBBYISTS FOR THE HAVENS: ICIJ’S GUIDE TO THE OFFSHORE SYSTEM’S DEFENDERS

– I’ve been following ICIJ’s work (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) since they broke their big story revealing the names of many of the rich and famous who hide their money in off-shore tax havens.

– And, while I don’t like taxes anymore than the next fellow, I applaud what they are doing.  

– If taxes must be paid, then the burden on all of us is lessened if everyone pays their fair share.

– The issue of what we are paying our taxes for is, however, a very different question.  I.e., are we paying our taxes to fund subsidies for the oil industry or for foreign wars?  Or, are we paying for services that improve the quality of life for everyone in our society.  Services like roads, food inspections and public schools.

– Here, ICIJ reveals who is defending the off-shore tax havens.  And how indirectly structured those defenses are.  The people funding the defense efforts don’t want to be seen as defending the havens.  So, they setup and quietly fund the defensive organizations while remaining quietly in the background.

– I say turn over all the rocks and let’s see what scuttles away in the light of day.  To see whatsort of creature causes all of us to have to pay more taxes to make up for their lost contributions.   And the irony is that most of the folks and companies doing this are not in any way stretched thin.   The vast majority of them posses wealth that most of us can only dream about.

– dennis

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Across the world, tax havens are under attack. Leading global organizations like the G20 and OECD have put cracking down on offshore tax avoidance at the top of their agendas. Ambitious plans for automatic sharing of tax data between countries are in the works.

But as ICIJ noted this week, reports of the demise of offshore tax havens have often been greatly exaggerated. Highly touted clampdowns in 2000 and 2009 yielded few results. In the last five years, two French presidents have vowed to wipe tax havens off the map entirely, but so far no one has come close to dealing a coup de grâce.

The resilience of offshore tax havens is not merely a result of clever financial tricks. Offshore havens and tax avoidance have influential defenders who have lobbied hard to maintain the status quo. Many of the world’s biggest corporations, accounting firms and law firms are pushing back against the latest efforts to curb the use of offshore.

Much of the lobbying is not done by corporations themselves, but by little-known business associations that represent them. Google, General Electric and Mitsubishi may be household names, but the U.S. Council for International Business and Japan Foreign Trade Council draw little attention from the public. “They want to have these arguments made on their behalf by others, because they have been in the spotlight and under fire for these things,” Nicholas Shaxson, the author of Treasure Islands, a book critical of offshore secrecy, said of the corporations that belong to these lobby groups.

ICIJ has consulted experts, reviewed media coverage and examined the comments made on proposed offshore reforms by the OECD in order to identify the groups that are standing in the way of the current round of offshore financial reforms. This roundup is far from complete, and we will update it based on news developments and suggestions from our readers.

Here is our rundown of six of the groups resisting reforms to offshore finance:

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