Tuesday, 26 March 2013

How to Make America a Global Tax Haven

Isn't it astonishing that at the very moment the USA is twisting arms the world over ostensibly to crack down on tax havens and the erosion of the tax base they help perpetuate, Bloomberg could run this headline without irony or shame, and we can get a brand new quote from yet another American lawmaker about the virtues of making the US a tax haven. This time it's not Paul Ryan who wants to "make America a tax shelter" but his friend Devin Nunes, who says the US ought to abandon corporate income tax, and substitute for it a cash flow consumption tax, in order to "make the U.S. the largest tax haven in human history."

You just cannot make these things up. You remember Nunes, I hope--yes, that's him, the co-chair of the international working group on tax reform convened by Camp & Levin. Yes, that Levin, the one that wrote FATCA, the legislation that is supposed to stop Americans from cheating on their taxes by using other countries as tax havens.

Of course you can say that in substance the two are very different--Levin's focus is to stop Americans hiding cash overseas in foreign bank accounts, while Nunes just wants to let corporations pay less tax on the income they earn in the US. And a cash flow consumption tax might not be evil. But using the tax haven and tax shelter rhetoric as a marketing strategy is objectionable. Either you think tax havens and tax shelters are an abuse of the rule of law, in which case you shouldn't try to turn your country into one, or you think they're just dandy in which case you shouldn't try to shut everyone other country down  to capture the market for yourself.

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