Global Financial Integrity

GFI header image

Letter to the Editor: Further Inquiry and Action Needed on Banks and Tax Havens

Dev Kar

This letter was originally published by The Guardian.


As a research and advocacy group that has for years called attention to the murky world of tax havens, we welcome your report (Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore, 4 April). But you should also have dispelled the myth advocated by some proponents that tax havens promote greater tax efficiency through competition; the evidence in economic literature is scanty at best. What is clear is that this benefit has not been enough to prevent tax havens from going bankrupt.

In September 2009, the Cayman Islands, one of the largest, faced bankruptcy and was unable to pay its government employees. Britain, which oversees the territory, was forced to bail out the Cayman authorities. Recently, Cyprus went belly up and had to be rescued by the EU, ECB, and IMF.

Investors need to realise that the lack of prudential regulations and oversight allows tax havens to pass on the cost-savings to them as higher returns. But with higher returns come higher risks. They implicitly accepted those risks when they invested in tax havens. In the event the financial risks pile up – as they inevitably must – and the house of cards comes crashing down, investors should not expect taxpayers to foot the bill.

Dev Kar
Lead economist
Global Financial Integrity
Washington DC