Everyone hates tax havens until they have to write the IRS a million dollar check on a three million dollar windfall.
The recent Panama Papers leak has put a spotlight on tax havens and anonymous or shell companies and the countries that people go to set them up.
There is nothing new about this, of course, and jurisdictions like Switzerland, Bahamas and Cayman Islands have long entered the popular imagination as the place to go for all sorts of anonymous, shady financial dealings. The truth though is that these places have been losing their cachet for a while now. The Carribean islands are tainted and over exposed while the Swiss have recently succumbed to pressure from many quarters, especially the US to become more transparent and force foreigners to follow the law.
This means that while most of the leaks show shells dominantly set up and run from the Carribean, that was yesterday’s game. Today, the hottest spots for that game are much further east: Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. These places have sophisticated real estate markets, reputations for being forward thinking business destinations and are in proximity to many emerging markets. However, America’s push against money laundering and all has seen some pressure on them.
Which makes it ironic that the absolute best shell company jurisdiction right now in the whole world, is right here in the US of A. Delaware, Nevada, Wyoming, the Dakotas, one could set up a shell company there in days. Real estate holdings can remain anonymous for life, real estate companies are simply registered with the address of the building as their name and no need to disclose real ownership. Blind trusts managed by any of America’s big banks are completely confidential. Billions of dollars can be held and traded in the US bond market, anonymously. And the US turns a blind eye on most of that because that’s the nature of the game. Capitalism for me and not for thee. As long as your money is coming to them, they’ll try to make it easy, same as everyone else. They’re just a bit more two faced about it. Which, when you think about it? Is rather brilliant.
Look good to the world while behind the scenes be just as ruthless as the people you’re calling out. Gotta love the USA.