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“ Tax Neutrality”: The Continuing Appeal of the Offshore

“ Tax Neutrality”: The Continuing Appeal of the Offshore

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“ Tax Neutrality”: The Continuing Appeal of the Offshore

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  1. “Tax Neutrality”: The Continuing Appeal of the Offshore Gregory Rawlings Centre for Tax System Integrity RegNet & RSSS The ANU

  2. Introduction: Tax-Free States High in the Mountains • The Principality of Andorra: Tax Haven located in Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain • Independent since 1278 • Constitution agreed 1993 • Total Bank Deposits 2001: €10 billion

  3. Wealthy Banks • “our banks are very small, but very rich” (Interview, Andorra, December 2003) • Zero Taxation • Strict Bank Secrecy Laws

  4. International Tax Planning • “Practically we now have zero tax for companies and individuals…“we act principally in international tax planning” (Interview, Andorra, December 2003) • Use “completely regulated” jurisdictions

  5. Elegant Companies • it is “more elegant to have a company from Holland these days; it’s a normal country after all”(Interview, Andorra, December 2003) • Andorra provides a “useful platform” for activities conducted elsewhere

  6. If you go to Andorra… • “ …if I go to Andorra where there is no tax at all then I wont have to pay any tax at all…it does not work like this”(Interview, Andorra, December 2003) • All transactions must be declared • Reduction of tax using double taxation agreements

  7. Tailors • “We are tailors. It’s like a customer who requires a certain suit. The tailor cuts it according to their customer’s needs. We do the same”. (Interview, Andorra, December 2003)

  8. External Pressure • Has always been under pressure • Small countries have difficulties resisting • Not dependent on finance

  9. Waiting to See • “This is what we are all waiting for…all of us are waiting to see what will happen. The Andorran government will make a decision next year. All of us are waiting to see; Andorra has had no taxation for all these years. It will mean a complete restructuration of the government. Accounts will have to be submitted for the first time…we are not very used to this due diligence requirement”. (Interview, Andorra, December 2003)

  10. Interviews • Interviews with 30 accountants, lawyers, regulators, fund managers, insurers, bankers, CEOs, legislators and trustees and fiduciaries in Andorra, Guernsey, Paris and Singapore.

  11. Research Areas • The effects of multilateral efforts to regulate OFCs (particularly the OECD’s Harmful Tax Practices Project and the European Union’s Savings Tax Directive) • Changes in client response/profile as a result of international initiatives

  12. Research Areas… • The current market for offshore services • Motivations for using OFCs • Tax planning techniques • Future prospects for OFCs and their clientele

  13. Methodology • Open-ended semi-structured interviews • Interviews not taped • Primary and secondary level notes • Confidentiality and no attribution • Snowballing and phone books • Observations and recordings from media, social interactions and architecture

  14. Multilateral Initiatives: A Review • OFCs: Pressure to abolish financial secrecy in last 5-10 years • Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) • 30 Tax Havens in Negotiation • European Union • Financial Action Taskforce (FATF)

  15. Impacts of Initiatives • Predications that the offshore would decline • “The fundamental attractions of OFCs – low or no taxation, banking secrecy, minimal financial regulation and political stability – face significant threat of erosion” (Hampton, 2002: 1662)

  16. Questions • Are these initiatives having an effect on the offshore sector and if so how and why? • How has business been affected by these initiatives • What kind of impacts has this had on local economies and societies

  17. Research Sites • Samoa (2002) • Andorra (2003) • Guernsey (2003 & 2004) • Singapore (2004)

  18. Impacts • 58% of respondents reported that initiatives were having an impact • 19% of respondents reported that initiatives were not having an impact • 7% of respondents reported it was too early to tell • 15% of respondents said not yet, but they will if fully implemented

  19. Compliance Costs • Increased compliance costs • Increase due to implementation of Due Diligence and Know Your Customer (KYC) standards. • “Slowing Down Effects”

  20. Offshore Sectors • Trust & Fiduciary • Private Banking • Funds Management • Captive Insurance

  21. Client Reaction • Effects had not adversely undermined profitability or viability of firms • Clients undeterred from OFCs • Business has increased

  22. High Wealth Individuals (HWIs) • “Bottom end of the market” has declined • HWI market almost completely unaffected • Institutions (multinationals and large corporates) unaffected

  23. Competition • Business has become more competitive • Some job loses • Increasing number of mergers and acquisitions

  24. No Undue Concern • Causing no major concern in industry • Part of a dynamic services sector • People must get used to the “ebbs and flows of finance…you hear a lot of doom and gloom”, but it was really an over-reaction (Interview, Guernsey, December 2003)

  25. Offshore Polarisations • Polarisation between OFCs in “developed” and “developing” countries • No major impact on “developed” OFCs (Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands [BVI])

  26. Decreasing Tax Havens • Singapore and Hong Kong as competitors • Outlook for smaller Pacific and Caribbean jurisdictions “bleak” • Decrease in number of tax havens in next ten years • Key centres will continue to prosper

  27. Motivations, Markets and Possibilities • Globally mobile capital and globally mobile people • Taxation has relative importance • Holding property through offshore companies and trusts • Estate planning

  28. Expertise • Concentration of expertise in OFCs • “…within one mile of this office you will get more expertise in the setting up and management of trusts than you would anywhere in the world”(Interview, Guernsey, December 2003).

  29. Offshore Flexibility • Offshore pension and superannuation funds • Payroll facilities for seafarers • Diminishing differences between offshore and onshore

  30. “Tax Neutrality” • “Tax neutrality” remains very important • Tax neutrality converges with regulatory flexibility • Large multinationals continued to be attracted to OFCs, where subsidiaries and funds can be established in a “benign environment”, not subject to “six different forms” of taxation and regulation (Interview, Guernsey, January 2004).

  31. “Global Families” • Offshore structures continue to work well for “global families” and HWIs • “There are the wealthy in this world and they will arrange their affairs, and when they become really wealthy they become itinerant” (Interview, Guernsey, January 2004)

  32. London as a Tax Haven • UK Non Domiciliaries • Set up offshore trust before moving to London • Property owned by trust • Capital payments tax exempt • Offshore debit/credit cards entitlements for “UK non-doms”

  33. OECD Discrepancies • US IRS issues “Qualified Intermediary Regime” status to selected offshore firms • New Zealand provides for tax exempt offshore trusts for non-residents • Portugal establishes OFC on Madeira with EU approval and no blacklisting

  34. Level Playing Field • Differences between OECD countries provide a continuing market for OFCs

  35. A long way to go • One interviewee put it like this: There was no doubt that in time Switzerland and Luxembourg would meet OECD standards. But “the game still has a lot further to go yet”. For example the USA, this interviewee claimed, does not meet many of the standards that the OECD itself is promoting, “they are a very long way from doing anything similar”, he said…cont

  36. Ongoing Opportunities • cont…Although they were drafting legislation to comply with these international standards they faced “massive opposition from corporate interests”. He continued “the concept of a global level playing will take a long time, if ever, to achieve”. In the absence of a level playing “there are still a lot of opportunities” for OFCs (Interview, Guernsey, December 2003)

  37. Hope • 100% optimism hope for future of offshore • “do I think that this industry will be here in another ten years, yes definitely, do I think that it will provide me with a successful career until I retire, yes definitely…the long term prospects are good” (Interview, Guernsey, December 2003)

  38. It gets better every day • “Oh yes, I think it gets better every day” (Interview, Guernsey, January 2004) • “Oh God yeah…who would have thought even ten years ago that there would be millionaires in China who would need their wealth managed”(Interview, Guernsey, January 2004)

  39. Conclusion: Offshore Niches • “There will always be an offshore sector. We are the ball-bearings in the machine of the world’s financial markets” (Interview, Guernsey, January 2004)

  40. Thank You! Gregory Rawlings CTSI “Tax Neutrality”: the continuing appeal of the offshore