James Moore: Take a look at tax havens closer to home
Wednesday 12 August 2009
Outlook: And so Liechtenstein has surrendered. Following on from the tax information exchange deal with the US comes a similar one with the UK. There will be an amnesty for around 5,000 account holders who could have stashed up to £3bn in the tiny principality, together with a tacit assurance that they won't be prosecuted if they agree to assume the position and pay up. They'd be well advised to do so because it is more than people in other tax havens may be offered.
Such an agreement would have been all but unthinkable a year ago, but times have changed and governments, having spent billions on economic stimulus plans, have put aside sectional interests to work together. Sooner or later, unpopular measures are going to be called for to plug the yawning chasms between the amount the world's chancelleries have spent and the amount they are bringing in, in tax.
They will likely include painful spending cuts and sizeable tax rises that will probably hurt the weakest in society the most. Far easier for people to swallow this sort of painful economic medicine if you can show that you are soaking wealthy tax evaders at the same time.
However, before Britain's tax authorities lose themselves in an orgy of self-congratulation, let's not forget that charity begins at home and there are several tax boltholes just off Britain's shores and another off the coast of Spain.
The investment company that yesterday gobbled up Friends Provident sits on one (Guernsey) while the bookies are falling over themselves to set up online operations on another (Gibraltar). Unlike the Leichtenstein lot, they are not doing anything wrong. But they're certainly not there for the climate.
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