Think of tax havens and you'll probably think of Switzerland, Isle of Man and Luxembourg but for the rest of the world, they think of us.
You see the UK's quirky and ancient laws mean we have rules that are very particular to these shores that allow the government to act as a tax haven without anyone actually saying those two dirty words.
These rules regard 'domicile' and in particular 'non-domicile' (or non-doms as I'm sure you've heard it referred to). You're most likely domiciled here, you live here full-time and pay taxes on money you earn from working and investments – no matter where your investment are in the world, but those who are non-dom are considered 'residents'.
A tax paradise
This means they are not here full-time and because the UK is technically not their 'home' under the domicile rules they are able to shelter their assets from UK tax.
This means that a person can be domiciled in Russia but own lots of properties in the UK, operate businesses and spend a lot of time here but they will only pay tax on their money that is in the UK. Essentially this means that investments and wealth can be held offshore away from the UK taxman.
No wonder we have such a glut of oligarchs and businesses coming to our shores to take advantage of our lax, archaic rules.
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Pointing the finger
Over the last few years the government has made some concessions and tightened up the domicile rules a little, particularly around the amount of time you can stay for each year until you are considered resident. However, it has stopped short of demanding what many would say is due from wealthy non-doms.
Chancellor George Osborne has been voracious in his attacks of tax supposed tax havens – calling for details of those sheltering money in the Cayman Islands and other places to be published.
He told G7 finances ministers last year that he wanted a name and shame policy but I can't help but think the other countries in the G7 would have been rolling their eyes at Osborne outburst.
The UK cannot sit back and lecture other countries on tax haven status when we are effectively offering just that under a different guise.
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