Sunday, July 22, 2012

How the Rich are Different

I heard this story about tax-sheltered money on the BBC World Service this morning. I believed it, but I wanted to make sure I got the numbers right. Al Jazeera English now has the story on their Web site, presumably using the same wire source that the BBC used:
Rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280bn in lost income tax revenues, according to research published on Sunday. 
The study estimating the extent of global private financial wealth held in offshore accounts - excluding non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and racehorses - puts the sum at between $21 and $32 trillion.
 This amounts to roughly the US and Japanese GDP combined. Roughly 10 million people worldwide have offshore accounts, with 100,000 people owning half of those secreted assets.
As they say, read it and weep. Al Jazeera did a follow-up by interviewing John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. He offered the following for quotation:
What's shocking is that some of the world's biggest banks are up to their eyeballs in helping their clients evade taxes and shift their wealth offshore. 
We're talking about very big, well-known brands - HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America, UBS, Credit Suisse - some of the world's biggest banks are invovled...and they do it knowing fully well that their clients, more often than not, are evading and avoiding taxes.
This should settle any doubts about just how different the rich are and what they will do to sustain that difference. Indeed, the money that goes into lobbying against financial reform probably does not make a noticeable dent in these assets.

No comments: