Banks top list of tax haven users

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BanksWe've been putting the spotlight on tax havens this week, so here's a round-up of which companies are the biggest culprits and where the most popular tax haven destinations are. The information has been pulled together from existing sources and it shows, wait for it, that the banks are the biggest culprits of all.

In 2009 the Tax Justice Network published a report called Where on Earth Are You?. It was prompted by US research by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showing that 83% of that country's largest corporations had subsidiaries in tax havens. Five of the top 10 were banks.

Citibank, BNP Paribas, Barclays

The TJN report looked at 95 of the largest quoted companies in the UK, Netherlands and France. Some 99% of them operated subsidiaries in tax havens. In the US, the largest user of tax havens was Citibank. In France, it was BNP Paribas. In the UK it was Barclays. All banks.

In 2008 the US GAO ranked the top 10 companies by use of subsidiaries in tax havens as follows;

  1. Citigroup 427 subsidiaries
  2. Morgan Stanley 273
  3. News Corporation 152
  4. Bank of America 115
  5. Proctoer & Gamble 83
  6. Pfizer 80
  7. Marathon Oil 76
  8. Pepsico 70
  9. Wachovia 59
  10. Lehman 57

At number 11, with 50 subsidiaries operating in tax havens, was JP Morgan. A bank.

Earlier this year, an investigation by the Daily Mail's financial team found that the UK's 20 biggest companies operated more than 1,000 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Four of the top five were banks, as the following list of companies and their offshore subsidiaries shows;
  • Barclays 298 subsidiaries
  • Lloyds 135
  • Royal Bank of Scotland 121
  • BP 85
  • HSBC 62
It's interesting to note the only non-financial institution in that list, BP. Its head of tax is John Bartlett. Earlier this year he was invited by the Government to sit on a study group. The focus of that group's studies was "tackling tax avoidance".

In 2009 the Swiss magazine Hebdo published its own list after studying the companies which used tax havens. Four of the top five companies were banks. Some 49% of all Credit Suisse's subsidiaries were in tax havens. The Swiss study also found that Delaware and the City of London were the most favoured locations.

The TJN report lists the most popular tax havens in the world. Top of the list is the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory in the western Carribean. Second on the list is Ireland. The full top 10 list of most popular tax haven destinations is as follows;

  1. Cayman Islands
  2. Ireland
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Switzerland
  6. Singapore
  7. Bermuda
  8. Jersey
  9. British Virgin Islands
  10. Mauritius.

No wonder Nicholas Shaxson, author of a forensic and gripping exposé of tax havens, observes on his blog that a fundamental shift in the world's political and economic fault lines is occurring. "It looks like a new consensus. Banks against people, or corporation vs people. And the people are losing."

Tomorrow, we'll conclude our week of looking at tax havens with an examination of the measures that are being taken to redress the balance, and at what measures tax justice campaigners think should and could be taken to do so.

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