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$21 trillion hidden from taxes by global super-rich

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A peek at the world of the global super-rich via The Guardian, reporting on an important new study by the Tax Justice Network.

This study attempts to size the global "offshore" economy, the amount of cash stashed and hidden from global taxation in offshore tax-haven countries.

Their number at least — $21 trillion. Yes, with a "t".

I can only say, the "global super-rich" must be super rich indeed — $21 trillion is almost double the size of the whole U.S. economy.

Here's the Guardian story, thanks to two contributors for the link (MiroCollas via Twitter and commenter AC_in_Mich via email); emphasis and some reparagraphing mine:
A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the "offshored" economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.

He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn [$30tn] – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals.

Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy".

According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.
The full Tax Justice Network report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, is here (pdf).

A resources page including related documents is here.

As I said when talking with Jay Ackroyd on a recent Virtually Speaking, this is what George Bush meant by "freedom" — a "borderless frictionless" global economy, in which capital can move freely, seeking whatever return it can get wherever it can get it.

For the George Bushes of the world, and the men and women they serve, the only good in the world is money and the power to keep it. And the only freedom worth having is the freedom to use it.
"The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments," the report says.
I think they're building a world, these men and women, one trillion dollars at a time. Tough sledding that, but I think they're almost there.

The result?
"[I]nequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people," said John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. "People on the street have no illusions about how unfair the situation has become."
We're looking at it.


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