Offshore Investments

Rich individuals and corporations moving their wealth offshore to avoid/reduce tax? SHOCK! HORROR! While the leaked Panama papers provide an insight into the scale of this activity, knowledge of the existence of such arrangements is nothing new. Private Eye has published regular reports on the role that tax havens play in ‘robbing’ the country’s Exchequer, save that it isn’t really robbery as offshore investment is not illegal (so long as you discount the industrial scale money laundering which is part of the enterprise). Although David Cameron has (at last) admitted his previous share ownership in Blairmore, we are left wondering where the £300,000 nest egg he inherited from his father was hatched. And there is the ‘small’ matter of the millions that the Tories have received from donors whose investments are largely offshore, a concern that also applies to other parties. It remains to be seen how serious Cameron really is about cleaning up the tax havens and clarifying the beneficial ownership behind myriad shady companies. To date, he and George Osborne have been strong on rhetoric but weak on action. In due course, the storm will probably blow over in the same way that bankers have been let off the hook and allowed to resume business as usual. In the meantime we need to get used to the new nomenclature for dodgy tax havens, which I’ve heard described by defenders of the free market faith as ‘tax neutral jurisdictions’ or ‘business-friendly jurisdictions’. You couldn’t make it up!