31 August 2011

Let me heartily recommend Treasure islands by Nicholas Shaxson which I’m reading.

It’s an analytical, detailed, and illuminating look at offshore tax havens/security jurisdictions of which Shaxson says there are about sixty in the world. There is a website which introduces the book and discusses its contents.

Tax havens are places that offer companies and mainly rich individuals comparatively low or even nil tax rates on income and capital and inheritance and a way of avoiding or minimising the higher taxes levied in other countries. I think whether one sees them as legitimate tax efficiency for individuals and companies or as depriving countries and people of tax revenue ultimately depends on how one sees taxes: a necessary evil to be minimised or underpinning civilisation. I incline to the latter view.

Read this for a measured argument about the damaging effects of tax havens. There have been recent agreements which limit the scope of some of them but critics dispute their adequacy. Tax havens still flourish.

The ‘British’ tax havens are the crown dependencies (that is, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and the overseas territories like the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar. See this article in the Financial Times 25 March 2010 about Guernsey, one of the tax havens.

I think there is an additional Cornwall interest because of this study about what Cornwall can learn in autonomous governance from Guernsey.

It might be said that the interest is the government model not the financial model. I’m not sure one can separate them easily in 2011 – I think the economy and finance are central to the success of any constitutional entity in the world whether or not recognised formally in a constitution – and it will be interesting to see what the study says on this.

SHAXSON Nicholas Treasure islands: tax havens and the men who stole the world (2011) Bodley Head

Addendum 23 September 2011
An update though little is said. And nothing about the financial model.

And here’s a later post on Guernsey’s finances and economy.