A Long-Overdue Manifesto against Tax Havens

By Faktorovich, Anna | Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

A Long-Overdue Manifesto against Tax Havens


Faktorovich, Anna, Pennsylvania Literary Journal


A Long-Overdue Manifesto Against Tax Havens Gabriel Zucman. The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens. Teresa Lavender Fagan, Tr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-226-42264-0. Economics. $16.00.

I quoted Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations in a textbook I wrote for my Writing Cultural Studies class this past semester at UTRGV. So, the title stood out as intriguing. The subtitle was also curious because I have been reflecting about the significance of zero-taxes when I worked abroad in China for Shantou University and the impact of different currency values on the international market. Gabriel Zucman proposes that tax havens are the major problem that have created the international spike in country-bankruptcies and other financial failures. He explains that this conflict has been brewing for nearly a century before coming to a climatic collapse in the last couple of decades. He goes beyond the doom-and-gloom, and proposes some strategies for positive changes. Tax havens are behind the zero-percent tax rates that so many American corporations are paying, and this inspired the Occupy Wall Street and some other reactionary movements. Why should lower class Americans pay the bulk of the country's tax burden while the billiondollar companies come up with financial tricks to bypass the hurdle of taxation. Of course, if the law says tax havens are legal, any company that does not follow the rest abroad is unlikely to be able to match their prices as they have the extra 1-30%+ to spend on price-slashing.

In between the economic theory and philosophy, Zucman bases his study on a statistical analysis of "the international investments of countries, the balances of payments, the on- and off-balance sheet positions of banks, the wealth and income of nations, the accounts of multinational companies, and the archives of Swiss banks" (3). Zucman proposes the following actions as needed to resolve the crisis: "create a worldwide register of financial wealth, recording who owns which stocks and bonds" (4), "levy sanctions proportional to the costs that tax havens impose on other countries" (5), and "rethink the taxation of companies" so that it derives from "from their worldwide consolidated profits, and not... from their country-by-country profits, because those are routinely manipulated by armies of accountants" (5). …

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