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Explore the Swiss Leaks Data (icij.org)
212 points by anigbrowl on Feb 9, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments

Most client & account data from 1988-2007; amounts from 2006-07.

Seems like this is the same dataset which Falciani leaked to the french authorities 5 years ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herv%C3%A9_Falciani

Edit: See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagarde_list - this list has already a quite interesting history.

It is the Hervé Falciani leak. See the Guardian coverage: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/08/hsbc-files-e...

  The origin of the leak The HSBC files were obtained through an international 
  collaboration of news outlets, including the Guardian, Le Monde, BBC Panorama 
  and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

   1 In late 2007, Hervé Falciani, an IT expert at HSBC's Swiss bank, hacked into 
     its customer files. He fled to France with police on his trail for breaching 
     Switzerland's rigid bank secrecy laws.
   2 The French authorities detained him, but refused to extradite him when they 
     realised the data could identify thousands of French tax evaders. Falciani now 
     lives in France under protection.
   3 In early 2010, under finance minister Christine Lagarde, France prepared 
     confidential lists of the leaked names for other countries. The so-called 
     "Lagarde list" led to scandal and arrests in Greece, Spain, the US, Belgium and 
   4 Britain's tax authority, HMRC, received a list in 2010 from which it identified 
     more than 1,000 tax evaders. More than £135m ($206m) was quietly recovered in 
     repayments, but only one person was prosecuted. There has been no UK legal action 
     against HSBC. Names were never revealed.

Why so few prosecuted in Britain? Wouldn't this be a good opportunity to get some assholes who thought they could shift the tax burden to others? Six month prison sentences sounds reasonable. British prisons suck, but given that this is partly the dodgers fault that's just poetic.

> Wouldn't this be a good opportunity to get some assholes

It would, if there was an actual will to "get some assholes" in the first place.

As reported by Private Eye several years ago, as soon as the current government got into power, several outstanding (and huge) tax-dodging cases were quietly settled, largely in favour of such dodgers. Once called on it, they reshuffled a couple of appointees and said it wouldn't happen again. I wouldn't be surprised to find the new bosses were told to put this list in the wrong drawer and accidentally forget about it entirely.

The previous government would have probably used the list for a fundraising round - if you can sell peerages, you might as well sell pardons. The next government will likely replace a few appointees here and there, and if pressed they will claim cases are too old to be efficiently investigated, it was all the previous guys' fault, etc etc.

As I recall, to get prosecuted for tax evasion in the UK, you need to not only commit the tax evasion, but also to lie to the HMRC investigation of the tax evasion, at the point where they ask you to sign a form that explicitly says that if you lie now and they find out, they will put you in jail.

So unless you lie at that point, you will not be prosecuted, only investigated.

This may let some tax dodgers off the hook, but it also ensures that genuine mistakes are not punished by jail time.

Is that really true?! If so it seems that a winning strategy is to actively try to dodge the system but be prepared to pay it back when you know you'll get found out. That makes no sense.

Why would that same rule not apply to other crime?

No, it is not a winning strategy as dogers have to pay a lot more due to punitive interest rates than those who correctly declared their taxes from the beginning.

Furthermore, the same rule also applies to other crimes. The rule is called "innocent until proven guilty".

It's not really "innocent until proven guilty" though. You're guilty the whole time, it's just that you get off the hook if you never formally lie to HMRC. From what I understood of the original comment it's more like, innocent until you're formally challenged on it, decide to lie and are subsequently found out. That's literally a get out of jail free card.

    Murder someone, don't admit it, found out -> charged
    Murder someone, admit it -> charged
    Dodge tax, lie about it, found out -> charged
    Dodge tax, don't lie about it, found out -> not charged!
Do you know what the punitive interest rates are in these cases?

HMRC say that [0]:

    "Those who try to get an unfair advantage will have to pay:

    - any tax that is due
    - any interest that is due
    - any penalties that are due"
I can't find any information about the the penalties that have been handed out in real terms. There's potentially more to be gained by holding on to the cash and using to your advantage until you get found out (if you ever do).

Maybe it's a reasonable way for HMRC to do things but it's a bit weird that you can knowingly be in the wrong without having the risk of jail time hanging over you.

[0] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.hmrc....

Arguably, the penalties aren't really punitive enough, otherwise we wouldn't still have an industry of bleeding-edge tax dodges. I know -- professionally and not closely -- one guy who specializes in complex tax mitigation for the ultra-rich. His more outre schemes may get shut down by the IRS but, if you're a client of his, you're essentially gambling tens of millions of dollars that you can avoid paying hundreds of millions in top-level taxes. At the wealth level they're at, it's a perfectly reasonable roll of the dice.

Because, you see, the rich are the pillars of decent society.

Protecting people from their own mistakes is fine, but they lost that defence once they put the money in secret swiss bank accounts. Secret. Swiss. Bank. Accounts. Might as well accidentally ask the local mafia to white wash some money while they twirl their mustaches.

The problem is that there's nothing illegal about putting your money in secret swiss bank accounts per se.

It first becomes tax evasion (in the UK anyway; details may vary) the moment you fail to report income or capital gains that are taxable, since the UK does not tax wealth.

This is true, but in many cases people are trying to avoid tax by placing money in a secret account. It's not like regular banks in the UK throw information out to the newspapers as a matter of course, but they would respond to requests from the tax authorities or from a court in the case of a commercial or divorce dispute. Many people with Swiss bank accounts have them not so much because they wish to live in Switzerland but because of the secrecy, ie they wish to conceal things from people who would otherwise legitimately have access.

Now this is not true in all cases, of course. People who lead international lifestyles often find a Swiss account useful because everyone has heard of Swiss banks, and their association with international transfers long predates the SWIFT system. So it makes sense people King Abdullah of Jordan (who has zero tax liability as a monarch, but who is heavily engaged in diplomacy and power-brokerage), or the late Helmut Newton, a famous fashion photographer (who never had very much in his Swiss bank account - a few tens of thousands - but who worked all over the world).

So I don't think that having a Swiss bank account is dispositive of anything by itself, but at the same time it would be disingenuous to ignore the fact that they have often been used to obscure taxable income.

Yeah, but you don't accidentally both place your money in secret Swiss bank accounts and fail to report it. You may want a secret account for privacy and you may forget to report all your money. Doing both at once, however, is highly unlikely. There's an end to plausible deniability and beyond that end should lie prison time.

It may be unlikely, but not so unlikely that I think you'd manage to convince many to put someone in prison for it without additional evidence.

Expect lengthy trials with all kinds of details showing up that creates sufficient doubt to make it hard to justify a prison sentence.

For starters, unless HMRC can prove that you have received the money in a way that should be taxed in the UK, they have no reason to expect you to report the money, and so most people don't.

E.g. for my part I'm Norwegian, but have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last 13 years or so. The first year I lived here, I was not ordinarily resident for tax purposes, and maintained accounts in Norway that HMRC had no expectation of knowing anything about, and no legal basis for me to report.

But if I had had a large enough fortune and income, it'd have been trivial for me to maintain a status as not ordinarily resident much longer, and legally avoid reporting any income due from work done outside the UK at that point. The same is possible for UK citizens who move out of the UK to work for some time. For me there was no point, since all my income came from the UK, and so I brought my money into the UK once I'd tidied up my Norwegian affairs.

If you wish to defraud the HMRC, then, and create plausible deniability, you move out of the UK, or at least spend enough time outside the UK for a few years to be able to claim that when you receive that X million payment from WeAreTaxEvaders Ltd. in the Cayman Islands, directly to your secret account in Switzerland, it is income due to you entirely from work done outside the UK in a period where you were not resident in the UK for income tax purposes. Then you move back, and conveniently don't tell the HMRC because, you will claim, it has nothing at all to do with them (of course it is not at all because you don't want to risk that they take a closer look at the paper trails related to WeAreTaxEvaders Ltd. and maybe find traces of payments from the UK etc., or a timeline that doesn't match when you were abroad), and you way have had legitimate reasons to want to e.g. invest in Swiss shares or whatever at a later date when you retire to a cabin in the Swiss alps. Or whatever. If you are telling the truth about this, it is none of the HMRC's business that the money is sitting there unreported.

This is the problem with going after these schemes: There are any number of completely legal - for good reason, often, - mechanisms that allow the unscrupulous to create sufficient plausible deniability that actually proving a case becomes incredibly hard. It's easy to sit and assume that of course these are tax evaders. Except some non-trivial percentage of them are not.

HMRC risks not only not getting the actual tax evaders imprisoned, but not getting their hands on the money either, if they go to court on insufficient evidence. Going after just the money is a lot easier since people are often willing to pay to make the threat of further investigation go away even if they see the risk of prison as remote.

Once you get into dealing with large amounts of money across the world, there's a lot of things that seem like they should be illegal that aren't.

While this case is probably rather clear-cut, most cases are not. The Government doesn't actually want to put people in jail (what problem would that solve?), unlike the US Government - it just wants its money. The law seems reasonable to get that.

Or how about you let the authorities deal with it in a reasonable, case by case basis and get off your polemic high horse

Is it "polemic" now to expect that people pay taxes, and get punished when they try to cheat their way out of it?

Apparently "Only the little people pay taxes." or go to jail.


People do pay taxes. Very few don't. This kind of diatribe just gives governments mindshare to promote even more aggressive and punitive taxes.

You mean that the people who got the most out of the system shouldn't be expected to contribute back the most?

Most out of the system? In what way could this possibly be true? 100 billion is 1/6th of UK government expenditure in a year. Moreover that money was generated by these people not money creamed off the UK taxpayers. Simple arithmetic tells us that the people who get the most out of the system are the ordinary UK citizens who use government services .

In the way that the existence of various government-maintained infrastructures (that is, "the system") is what permitted them to acquire wealth in the first place.

I knew you were going to say that.

House of Commons will be all about that today http://www.theguardian.com/news/live/2015/feb/09/hsbc-files-...

What would be the value in it? Justice? What does that mean? Punishment?

Or to send a warning? Would that really be effective?

What would be the cost? Was there anybody in the pot that was expendable, economically?

>Or to send a warning? Would that really be effective?

Yes. A lot of tax evaders who wouldn't even blink at a potential $500k fine would not take any risks if the were faced with real jail time. That means more tax revenue.

> Was there anybody in the pot that was expendable, economically?

What do you mean by "economically expendable"?

What does "expendable, economically" mean?

I don't know the situation, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were too many important people on that list.

Prosecuting the whole elite is not something that the elite typically does.

So does any of this relate to current offences, or is it all historical?

This doesn't appear to be the leaked data, but rather curated profiles of some of the people referenced in the supposedly leaked data.

Am I missing something?

This seems to be biased journalists trying to push their agenda through exposure of private information of selected individuals.

journalism is too much flattery in this case

Badly presented as well -- all the info is in a tiny rectangle in the center of the screen, with a uneven background that makes the text hard to read.

The complete list isn't public. Limited parts of the list have been given to relevant tax organisations in different countries. (Look up Hervé Falciani, the whistleblower, for more details.)

This feature probably shouldn't be called "Explore the Swiss Leaks Data".

The pattern is apparent - once you become rich, you don't want to donate millions to governments in taxes. Anyway you do, but trying to minimize it. Be it for their lack of any transparency how cash will be used (mostly wasted in very ineffective way). It doesn't matter if it's famous or unknown rich.

Now what to do with this situation... There are too many tax havens out there (Suisse, Monaco, Channel islands, Luxemburg, Malta etc. - this is just good ol' europe). There will always be rich, powerful people no matter what system you come up with (sheep/wolf human nature responsible here). If you tax them too much, they will flee (ie Tina Turner) and you lose all the money for good. Those are clever people, having best financial advisors out there.

Heck, if I had hard earned/inherited millions or more, I wouldn't want to support some war efforts/failing eu social policies either. If feeling generous, you can always give back more directly ie by building some school, avoiding bureaucrats that eat away most of cash. YOu know, the richest man in the world style. There is a good reason why he didn't donate all his money to something existing, but managing investments by himself (maybe not exact description, but you get the point).

All in all, nothing new...

Paying taxes is not "donating money". You are required by law to pay them. You get certain things in exchange, like laws that protect your property.

If you think that you shouldn't be forced to pay taxes, why do you think that other laws should be enforced? If rich people steal from the state, why shouldn't poor people just take what they want from the rich?

If you avoid taxes, you are stealing from everybody.

> You get certain things in exchange, like laws that protect your property.

With the important difference that the price is non-negotiable, and set by the service provider alone. The people highlighted on the website chose to park their property elsewhere, so the government had zero cost in protecting that.

The price is not in proportion to the quality of service at all, it's proportional to the income of the citizen. Which is consistent with what most people understand taxes to be: a wealth redistribution mechanism, rather than a service fee.

> If you avoid taxes, you are stealing from everybody.

If all the people which avoid some taxes currently (basically every large corporation) close down operations in the US and move to a country with more favorable conditions, the theft (under your definition) would stop. Do you think the net gain would be positive?

In addition, if "not mentioning 3 mn" is theft, then surely "wasting 3 mn" as government official is theft as well.

However, this type of accountability is somehow not there. So it seems the rules are different, depending on what side you are.

Finally, a fundamental property law states that something is your property unless you voluntarily pass the claim to someone else. This principle certainly holds between private entities. The question is why it doesn't hold for the state?

>With the important difference that the price is non-negotiable, and set by the service provider alone.

Hunh? Most (all) of the states involved have some form of democratic government don't they? I know some of them still have monarchs (why?), but I believe their policy makers are elected by the general population, are they not?

Democracy is a pack of wolves voting on which sheep to have for dinner.

Now, what I'd like to see is each person's vote multiplied by the amount he pays in taxes (all taxes: property, sales, income &c.). That would be fair, and it'd give an incentive to pay up too.

Which is even more cut throat, since you're basically selling political power: rich people would be able to afford way more, than the poor.

Fair point, but it seems relevant to acknowledge that the American campaign finance system as presently organized is exactly isomorphic to the "selling political power" you mention above.

If all the people which avoid some taxes currently (basically every large corporation) close down operations in the US and move to a country with more favorable conditions, the theft (under your definition) would stop. Do you think the net gain would be positive?

Considering that selling in the US is so profitable and the market for buying stuff in the US is so competitive, that's very unlikely to happen. Most US companies would experience a catastrophic fall in income if they stopped doing business in the US.

You don't pay taxes for specific services. You pay taxes because it is the law. The money you have to pay for taxes is not your property. It belongs to the state. If you illegally transfer untaxed money out of the country, you aren't "parking your property elsewhere", you are stealing public money.

If you don't want to pay taxes in a country, then don't do business in a country.

> the price is non-negotiable, and set by the service provider alone.

Luckily, there are lots of different service providers. If you want to live in the low-tax heaven of Somalia, you're entirely free to do so.

Or Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Cayman Islands, Dubai, Monaco, Bahamas... just to name a few.

Quite so - but in reality, it turns out that most people don't want to live in those jurisdictions, but prefer to be close to their largest market, or remain in their home countries for non-financial reasons, like family, cultural, or language ties.

Taxation for corporations is a very different thing from taxation for individuals. Companies pay for the privilige of doing business on the territory. I don't really think Apple Inc would be fine if they suddenly can't sell in the US, or can't employ US citizens, or can't benefit from US foreign relations.

True. But the website mainly denounces private individuals, and the argument still applies.

Perhaps the issue isn't so much in "forcing" people, as it is in recognizing that the perceived unfairness of the tax system itself is causing systemic dysfunction.

Because taxes are perceived to be so unfairly high in certain economies, many devote significant time and effort into "innovating" around policy which is completely legal. Transfer pricing, long-term capital gains distinctions and LLC/Trust configurations, to name a few.

It makes sense to do this, because the disincentives of NOT pursuing legal tax minimization strategies are severe. You'll lose almost half your income. The more money you have, the more strategies you get--meaning they are formed in the ranks of industry leaders like Apple or Google, and eventually trickle down throughout private industry (though in the interim this only serves to widen the disparity & narrow the concentration of wealth).

This won't change unless the common psychology changes. If the tax system were more balanced and fair (a more moderate/halfway implementation of a "flat tax?") then less energy would be devoted into the legal arms race that is out-maneuvering the tax code.

... but obviously that's a pipe dream.

the taxes are for the poor, not rich.

Paying more than you are legally obliged to could be considered donating though. I'm not commenting on the specific cases linked to but as I'm sure you're aware there is a massive grey area around tax law. You can't simply claim that not paying is stealing any more than the parent can claim not paying is ok (it didn't). The details are all about the amounts, which methods are legal and which methods are of untested legality. I think parent's claim is that money is both more willingly and better spent elsewhere (perhaps regardless of legality).

Significant numbers of rich people/corporations use methods that are legal to reduce their taxes. Most people consider this wrong despite its legality (probably they also mistakenly believe it to be illegal - because journalism).

There's certainly an argument that this is - in part - a of problem for the creator of a complex tax system, who should respond by reducing complexity (increasing enforcement tends not to go well - complexity also hinders that). It also seems likely that the people who consider it morally wrong would do likewise if their tax bill were 100x larger (in Switzerland, it is not a criminal offence to make an incorrect tax declaration. Many non-rich Swiss compete with the tax office to lower their bill).

It also seems that you are saying laws are by definition correct. Many laws are not uniformly enforced and many laws are changed as a result of disobedience. Perhaps such people are indeed paying proportionally way too little now but perhaps their actions also affect positive change in future (more efficient system overall, but resource allocation, fewer unintended loopholes). This may not even be their intention, but it doesn't matter.

Nice textbook phrases, now let's get back to the real world out there for a while.

Do you even understand the simple truth, that most of the times no law is broken in tax optimalizations? Only when it does, it gets highly publitized. Usually, tax systems are full of loopholes and accountants just need to be creative enough (and yes, they are...). Without breaking any specific law, by logic "what is not explicitly forbidden is allowed".

Personally, I do believe in minimal and fair taxation. If you have system where successful people have over 50% tax burden (quite common in progressive tax systems), you can expect many attempts to get away from it. Just human nature. Your textbook phrases won't help much, do they.

Just look at Switzerland itself - most democratic country in the world, one of the richest (and their wealth ain't based on banking secrecy - whole banking industry brings roughly 12% into GDP... tourism and high quality exports are primes here). Low personal and corporate taxation, and the country and system just works. Why cannot rest of europe work this way? How much tax evasion is within Switzerand? Almost none...

Nice textbook phrases. What does it matter whether laws are broken or not if the result is still people not paying their taxes while benefiting massively from society. If the best you can say about someone's behavior is that it's "not technically illegal", that's quite telling.

And don't get me started on Switzerland. I live there. I'm Swiss. We have massive tax evasion. We have special tax deals for foreign nationals living here.

Here in Zurich, where I live, the cantonal (state) finances are under huge strain because all the wealthy people live across the border in other cantons where the taxes are much lower, but commute into Zurich to work. So Zurich gets to pay for the infrastructure, for the poor who live here rather than across the border, etc.

So please don't talk about some imaginary Switzerland that supports your self-serving rhetoric.

This is a perfect example of why taxing income is not the correct way. Things like progressive sales tax and taxing usage is. For example, those commuters should be taxed enough to support their burden each time they come in to the city. And for those companies within the city limits enjoying the infrastructure, protection of law, etc, a sales tax on their products sold should cover that. The point of tax extraction should be consumption, not production. It's more efficient, more market (reality) based and a whole lot less political.

What should the sales tax be progressive on? You don't know the buyer's income when they pay for stuff.

Some usage taxes might work, but unless they specifically target out-of-canton persons, they will just drive more rich people out of Zurich, exacerbating the problem.

At the end of the day having every 20x30 miles plot of your country independently decide on taxation is not be the best idea.

Different tax regimes can only coexist when taxpayers' mobility is limited, otherwise the cheapest tax-land wins.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that standard sales tax is regressive by nature (poor people spend a much higher percent of their income than rich people).

Good point, I should clarify:

A progressive sales tax not based on purchasers income, but the type of good. For example, luxury goods should be taxed higher and basic staples very low to none. This the wealthy could not avoid tax by simply shifting money around political jurisdictions. This system would encourage transparency, encourage wealth creation as well as thrift in lower and middle income earners.

Also, a side benefit (not that I entirely agree with it) is this is a way to enforce social policy like healthy eating. Tax unhealthy items like sugary food and tobacco highly (up to a point). This is done already in the United States successfully. And if you want more tube riders and less drivers in a city, have a very high toll and vehicle purchase tax. Singapore does this successfully.

Some countries that have no income tax already employ this to an extent by taxing certain sales and imports. I think this type of system is worth experimenting with at least on the city-state or state level (canton / province / state). If it does not work, you can always go back.

There's been talk of this type of system in the US but it's not likely to gain traction. The real reason for progressive income tax is not good policy, but divide and conquer class politics. Something all sides of the political probably spectrum agree with: governments need to be good stewards of tax revenue no matter the collection method.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FairTax (note the section on prebates for poor people - similar to basic income).

This kind of proposals tend to ignore how mobile wealthy people are. They might have more than one home - say, one in US, onw in Switzerland, one in Hong Kong, etc - and they might have luxury items here and there. Taxing such things with wildly different percentages is not going to work very well. The rich guys will just shop for that jewellery in Dubai and keep it in Hong Kong. Will you require him/her to declare and pay tax on it if he brings it to Paris for throwing a party there? Not likely going to work out.

Effectively, a country engaging in such tax procedures would be throwing out rich people, and while I can hear the jeers of "good riddance", I'm afraid that it's not really a good thing for tax revenues.

What's the difference between what you brought up and wealthy people just moving their holding companies to jurisdictions with lower capital gains and earnings tax? People should be mobile as they want to be in free societies. Do we believe that the state owns their citizens or a portion of those citizens working lives? The income tax presumes they do.

None, really, I wasn't trying to show such difference. Of course the same thing applies to many kinds of wealth.

Except land, which you cannot very easily move from one jurisdiction to another.

Edit: One recent example of the latter comes to my mind, of course. This is the case of properties in Crimea, now annexed by Russia. This is effectively a jurisdiction change. And it has some practical consequences, of course, although maybe not immediately related to tax; Crimean people need to register their properties into the Russian system, because Ukrainian property ownership is not recognized by the new powers-that-be. And registering is not free, and not even cheap, from what I hear.

That's interesting! Though after reading so many pros & cons of FairTax on wiki, I'm still not convinced it's a good idea. The potential downsides are pretty dramatic:

* Easier tax evasion (first-party reporting, B2B untaxed)

* Discouraging of consumption (encouraging saving, DIY & black markets)

* Income-regressive nature of consumption

That said, some of the upsides are pretty good too. And if we were switching from FairTax to the current system, the latter would seem even more insane.

Yeah, I'm not on board with all the FairTax tenants. For one, the sales tax should be progressive based on product type (range from basic necessities to luxury).

Savings and DYI are a good thing long term. Maybe not so much for the inflationary consumer based system that the banks and megacorporations benefit from.

The pre-bate, which is similar to a basic income should help offset the regressive nature. In fact, I think it could replace most welfare programs.

Thanks for that - I was trying to figure out how to respond, and you did it much better than I would have.

waaait, you call people living ie in Zug canton and commuting to Zurich "a massive tax evasion"??? People are doing what they want and can, within the swiss law, which is perfectly OK with this scheme of things. If it wouldn't be OK, the could easily pass laws ie for work permit/canton of residence relationships. There is this part of the tax called Federal tax, ya know...

Now that you personally find the already uber-rich Zurich city somehow being on the wrong end of tax deal is your own personal issue.

Personal anecdote - my friend is living in Zurich, commuting daily to Zug for work. But that's another story :)

Is there any interest in a HN meetup in Zurich? (If yes, contact me...)

Swiss tourism is about 1% of the GDP (less than say watches), you're making a big dent in your logic with such a lack of fact checking :-)

The reason why there is no tax evasion in Switzerland is multi-layered and very complicated, but in short they cut down on loopholes and tax actually rich people too with tax on wealth or or capital gains. In most places you have 50% or so of tax that is paid by medium-rich people, with actually rich getting away with lot less because of capital gain taxes being lower or controls being more lax or stuff like that. The "50% for rich" is mostly cannon fodder for voters, noone is really expecting anyone to pay that much.

That said, you can't explain the swiss system in simple words, without looking into their long and complicated history etc. I suggest you do more research and get your own conclusions :-)

There's a common misconception about progressive tax systems. I'm from the Netherlands, and we've got such a system like that.

But it's not true its quite common to pay over 50% taxes. For example, here we got 4 tax-discs, where you pay taxes in a disc until a certain amount of money earned(profits). Disc 1: until €19822,- : 36.50% Disc 2: until €33589,- : 42.00% Disc 3: until €57585,- : 42.00% Disc 4: more €57585,- : 52.00%

That means, you have to pay 52% taxes over the amount you've earned more than €57585.

So in order to pay 50% taxes, one has to make about €300.000,- a year, (either income or profit).

those "discs" are per month? anyway, my comment was on rich people, no real definition but say earning more than 1 mil eur/ear. If I understood your description correctly, they pay around/above 50% of taxes, right?

Rich people get their income typically as capital gains, and I expect the income brackets above are given for earned income, which is a different thing.

It is not really feasible to tax capital gains with a progressive system. You can make a small case for progressive taxes on capital gains by allowing a basic deduction, but the transaction cost of moving the capital gains somewhere else are generally quite small.

(Just for information, I live in a country from where people are leaving as tax refugees to Sweden).

No, these are yearly.

Switzerland is a tiny country with most companies being service companies that cater to foreign customers just like in Singapore. Larger countries cannot function on that kind of taxation. The cantons can individually negotiate taxes btw. so there is little need for intricate avoidance schemes.

I'd argue Japan is a good example of a larger well functioning country with fair taxation (up to 40% on income above 150k USD).

Japan has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.

That's ridiculous (the second part, not the "donating money" part)

If you avoid taxes, you are following the law. No one should pay more than is required of him to pay. If you can structure certain transactions in different ways (e.g. 25% tax vs 50% tax), why would one choose the more expensive option?

If you evade taxes, yes, then you are stealing from everybody. That I do not condone. But, there is a clear difference.

Tax laws are complex.

People avoiding, not evading, taxes think they are obeying the laws. But sometimes they are using the laws in weird ways and the tax authorities might not agree. Those tax laws get tested in the courts which is a slow expensive process. Or the tax authorities will enter discussion with people using weird tax schemes to try to get some money before going to court.

Tax avoidance used to mean normal tax planning but it has gained a meaning of people using bizarre interpretations of the law.

The funny thing is that this is exactly the same fallacy programmers tend to run into when trying to game the legal system: that you're not violating the letter of the law, doesn't mean what you're doing is legal or that you can't be sued. It's not just a bunch of code.

The problem with taxation IMO is that it's caught in a vicious circle: companies / "the rich" are dodging taxes so the taxes need to be raised leading to more tax dodging and so on. Part of the problem is that tax fraud is often not punished in proportion to the actual value[0].

I don't think there's an easy solution, especially in a world that is as interconnected as ours is today.

Personally, I think income tax is a broken model because property is no longer a good indicator of wealth (it just encourages "investing" the money where it can't be taxed -- which comes with a threshold so high you end up hitting the middle and lower income households disproportionally).

Taxing the transfer of wealth more instead of its possession seems like a good idea, though. It might "slow the economy down", but with sub-millisecond stock trading being a thing I'm not sure this is a bad thing. It's not as if a huge income would be particularly useful if you aren't going to do anything with it anyway.

[0]: A recent case in Germany was Ulrich Hoeneß, the former president of the football club Bayern Munich, who was found guilty to have withheld nearly 30 million euros in taxes (after repeatedly admitting to much lower sums throughout the trial -- which to me sounds like obstruction, but what do I know). He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, BUT an early release is extremely likely (so it's doubtful he will spend anywhere close to the full sentence behind bars) and after a mere six months he was already granted day release (meaning he can walk freely outside prison as long as he returns in the evening).

EDIT: Frankly, I'd be happy if income tax was replaced entirely by some form of transaction tax. It's far easier to reason about and far less likely to bite founders in the ass. In Germany most newly founded business go bankrupt in their third year because that's often the first time they not only have to pay tax on the previous years but also make advance payments for the current year, which can be deadly if you didn't make sure to put aside enough of your income to cover taxes (and accountants are expensive).

The problem is one i can sympathise with to some degree. For standard wage levels taxation (whilst still to much in UK) makes sense. Scale that up to millions and it really is out of wack. There is no moral reason why a government deserves 50% of everything you have made.

Its like when you order a more expensive bottle of wine, and the restaurant's service charge is a percentage of it... its ridiculous to charge $100 to open a bottle of wine.

> There is no moral reason why a government deserves 50% of everything you have made.

Why? Personally I think the marginal tax rate should be much higher on the highest earners, for the simple reason that the impact of exact additional percentage point tax is far lower for a higher earner. To me the actual percentage is irrelevant. The relative impact is far more important.

If I had to pay 1 percentage points more tax, I wouldn't notice. I spend more than that on comics and takeaways, and also set aside 15-20 times more than that in savings and investments.

If I had to pay 5 percentage points it would begin to sting a bit, but I could still easily afford it. 10 percentage points more would start to be painful but still doable.

In fact, while I'd be complaining and whining about it at that point, I could manage 50% tax quite easily (I actually pay about 32% combined income tax and national insurance, despite being far into the 40% income tax threshold, and earning enough to be in the top 10% UK earners or so)

Meanwhile I have neighbours that would have to cut down on their food budget if their tax rate went up 1%, despite paying at least 10 percentage points less than I do, and many people in the UK would struggle to keep modest accommodation and food if they paid more than 20%.

I don't find it at all unfair that I pay more than them, not least because the only reason I can make what I do is that there is a functioning society around me that can afford my services.

> Personally I think the marginal tax rate should be much higher on the highest earners, for the simple reason that the impact of exact additional percentage point tax is far lower for a higher earner. To me the actual percentage is irrelevant. The relative impact is far more important.

So, you define a fair tax system as one whose perceived impact is identical across the tax base.

I define it as one where people pay in proportion to the benefits they receive. One can, indeed, argue that a rich man receives more benefits than a poor man, since his larger fortune is protected, and indeed due to his connexions he himself is more likely to be able to call on the protection of his state. I'd bet that it's linear or sublinear, though, and surely not superlinear (which is the case with progressive tax systems).

I find it entirely irrelevant whether or not the tax system is "fair" - fairness is inherently entirely subjective -, as long as it taxes based on income level (rather than e.g. race or other irrelevant factors).

What matters to me is if it optimizes for the welfare of society as a whole. And before you ask, I believe that alone is sufficient to prevent excesses like taxing higher earners to the point where they make less than lower earners, because people would in that case opt to earn less, and so it would in fact not optimize for happiness of society as a whole as it would reduce tax revenue despite increasing the perceived tax burden.

Whether the actual marginal tax rate is 99% or 1% is irrelevant to me in that context, if it achieves that goal (though I believe a marginal tax rate of 99% would be counter-productive, I do believe they could be substantially higher than most places today). I say that as someone who would be likely to deal with the effect if marginal tax rates went up.

As it happens, income/wealth is demonstrably only extremely weakly correlated with personal happiness once very basic needs are met (if you have housing, and food, basically), and as long as things are roughly as they used to or slightly better year over year. Steady improvement has a vastly higher impact on peoples happiness than absolute levels.

That, to me, makes it morally acceptable - pretty much a moral imperative - for a good society to structure taxes to maximize the return from higher earners over lower in order to reduce suffering for those with the least and to maximize the development of society as a whole. Not just because it would help those one the bottom, but because contrary to trickle down, trickle up actually works, and a trickle effect has a far more positive effect on happiness than sitting on a hoard of cash.

Setting marginal tax rates then becomes an optimization problem.

"I define it as one where people pay in proportion to the benefits they receive"

I believe that countries want to survive as entities, and being fair is not necesarily the best course of action. If rich people pay more, but they don't do anything aggresive in response, that's ok. Surely most of the population will be happier - and, in return, won't rise up and kill the rich. If the amount of capital going out of the country starts being so aggresive that it is dangerous for the country, the country will end up responding.

Its like when you order a more expensive bottle of wine, and the restaurant's service charge is a percentage of it... its ridiculous to charge $100 to open a bottle of wine.

Chances are you would be perfectly happy if there were no service charges or tipping, but the prices were all increased by 18% (or whatever the service charge is), and the receipts distributed in identical fashion. When I'm in a restaurant I don't look at the service charge as something additional I pay, it's just information about the split between the restaurant owners and the employees. Admittedly this makes pre-calculating the bill more difficult, but if you're ordering $500 bottles of wine then chances are you're making enough money that that you don't care very much about the actual total amount.

I find it curious that you resent the wait staff getting a chunk of the cash you've decided to spend on a fancy meal/wine selection, even though you presumably have no problem with the restaurant owner making a similar profit.

I don't think you understand what a wine service charge is. The staff do not get the fee, the restaurant does. This is entirely different than a tip.

If you're talking about corkage fees, that's split between the staff, same as tips. But you didn't say anything about it being your own bottle of wine, so I couldn't be sure.

This is a big story in Indian news today. The current prime minister, Narendra Modi was elected partly because he promised to bring black money that was stashed abroad, back to the country. A Herculean task and one that he hasn't done much about so far. It interests me how this information can be used against the relevant people. Will it be a mere name-and-shame or can they use a leaked source in a court of law? I don't think so. People in many countries avoid taxes and in India this is especially egregious since close to 97% of the population does not pay any income taxes[1]. For a population of 1.25 billion with 400m below the poverty line, this is not good. [1] http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-11-04/news...

Can leaked documents constitute probable cause? If so, further warrants could be obtained to investigate account holders.

Looks worthless, only selected people who they think are worthy enough to publish. Why not all the names or raw data?

The raw data contains phone numbers, adresses and other personal data (source http://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2015/02/09/qui-s... ). I can see why it's not published as is.

Doesn't explain selecting names and sums, though.

Is there any raw data that can be downloaded ?

Raw data will be helpful , I tried to explore couldn't find it.

It would be interesting to see if they will release it, I guess there would be concerns with privacy for people who weren't in the alleged 70% [1] who's accounts got closed. I guess it's more of an ethical question.

[1] http://www.icij.org/project/swiss-leaks/banking-giant-hsbc-s...

Wasn't able to find anything either.

Did the dataset get released as well?

EDIT: Is the raw dataset out as well? It will be interesting to see all the names.

You can find a dataset of a previous banking leak if that kind of stuff interests you. Just google Cayman banking leak.

Tried to find it but the top google matches are just links to your comment =/

I can't use google here because its blocked, however bing gives me decent results.

The leak was from bank julius baer.

A crappy website (iOS not recommended) is not nearly as useful as the actual data which might be really interesting.

Why are news organizations so often barriers to getting information? Please release the source documents.

The Lebanon aspect of this story has been under reported in my opinion. The guy who leaked these files was trying to sell them to the big Lebanese banks before he realized he wasn't going to profit from that. I bet he was chased out of the country and had no choice but to hand the files over to the French. But realistically, what would Lebanese banks benefit from purchasing stolen data? Nothing... If they had used the data it would have undermined their credibility... Something that many people in the region would be happy to see.

The link doesn't disclose all names,only selected few are there. I hope they will disclose all soon.

Can someone clarify why is nobody publishing the complete list of names or the raw data files?

Wow, this is a crazy article.

>World Jewry responded by declaring a global boycott against Germany.

So we're using "World Jewry" in casual conversation now? Like that's a thing and it gave out declarations? Wow.

>All these were paid for with money that no longer came from the private international bankers.

How many billions were generated by the nationalization of wealth from Jews and minorities? Killing people and taking their wealth shouldn't be applauded.

>Germany even managed to restore foreign trade, despite the international bankers’ denial of foreign credit to Germany, and despite the global boycott by Jewish-owned industries.

Uh, it wasn't just Jews boycotting Hitler, it was a good chunk of the world. Turns out not everyone loves a sociopathic mass murderer who declares war on his neighbors.

>Canadian researcher Dr. Henry Makow (who is Jewish himself)

Is this how we write now? We mention who and who isn't a Jew? Wow.

Please keep this pro-Hitler bullshit crap off HN, thanks pal. I find it amusing and unsurprising that the "OMG THE FED IS THE WORST THING EVER" crowd obsessed with Rand/Ron Paul also turn out to be historical revisionists and straight-up racists.

> I find it amusing and unsurprising that the "OMG THE FED IS THE WORST THING EVER" crowd obsessed with Rand/Ron Paul also turn out to be historical revisionists and straight-up racists.

I don't think it's OK for you to generalize like that. Because one article exists on the internet, and is wrong about Hitler and the banks, therefore all Fed haters are racist?

When one makes generalization about the Jews they are roundly chided and rightly so. Consider yourself equally roundly chided. I hate the Fed (it's not an acronym). There's no reason to hate Jews as an ethnicity. The reason to hate the Fed is simple, they have a machine that prints money. Nothing to do with Jews, nothing to do with ethnicity. If the Fed wasn't run by people but only machines I'd still hate it, like I hate High Frequency Trading. Because HFT lied to us about bringing liquidity to the market even though it's not a person but a machine. A lot of people want to derail the discussion from money to race because it's easier. But this is to do only with money and no one wants to talk about it. That's the taboo. Money and machines should not mingle. Do Jews use currency? Yes. Then they are victims of the Fed like every other person is, that doesn't control that machine.

Oh, I also hate when things are passed off as Science when they aren't falsifiable, like Keynesian Economics. Mixing things with machines or formulae that shouldn't be mixed is scientificism. Fed haters want to talk about money but there's a group of people that keep derailing the conversation to non-money issues. You seem to be part of that despicable group. Why? Why worship the money machine? People like you really want for there to be a Science that can predict the future. Well guess what. No such thing.

Now that was truly eye opening! Thanks for posting it.

That article has some rather strange claims, and there's more than a hint of the traditional anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. No point in starting to refute things point by point, but just to pick a few:

At that point the German government thwarted the international banking cartels by issuing its own money.

As if the Weimar Republic didn't have its own money, which it printed with lots of zeroes after a non-zero.

World Jewry responded by declaring a global boycott against Germany.

Oh, there's a declaration by World Jewry?

Hitler began a national credit program ... All these were paid for with money that no longer came from the private international bankers.

Except, of course, where money came by confiscating the property of racial and political enemies [edit] that happened to be bankers [/edit].

Under the National Socialists, Germany’s money wasn't backed by gold

That was no news, exactly. The Weimar Reichsmark wouldn't get you much gold, either.

The boycott of "Judea against Germany" is well known or should be, at least.

What was the anti-Semitic part again? Or do you just throw accusations like that for no reason?

Edit: as far as my reading goes this "Hitler went against the bankers" idea has no place in reality.

You refer to a boycott which was a response to persecution that Nazis commenced right when they were able to, post January 1933.

This was not about bankers. It was a boycott due to Nazis starting to do what Hitler had promised to do, to start his actions on the road to the Holocaust.

Yes, this kind of claims are typical of anti-Semitic nutjobs. I don't throw such accusations for no reason; I throw them because it is repugnant to claim that the Jews brought their misfortunes to themselves by this or that boycott or by being bankers or whatever. There are many Web sites that make a big deal about this "Judea against Germany". And it's mostly disgusting stuff.

> persecution that Nazis commenced right when they were able to, post January 1933

> Nazis starting to do what Hitler had promised to do, to start his actions on the road to the Holocaust.

Can you source those claims? I don't remember Hitler giving any orders to start a persecution of Jews, but I do remember mainstream holocaust historian Raul Hilberg saying under oath in a 1985 Toronto trial that there are no documents to source that claim, and that the Nazis conducted what they did through a "meeting of minds, a consensus mind-reading by a far-flung bureaucracy". Without documentation, this is conspiracy theory at best.

No doubt the Nazis killed millions of Jews. But they did not conspire to do so. Let's make sure we teach people real history, not conspiracy theories with hidden pro-Israel agendas. The Nazis committed innocenticide at a large scale, but after 1970s WWII became all about the chosen people, and I thought we were all Africans.

I'll preempt your calling me "anti-Semite" by saying I have nothing against any ethnicity (but I do have something against religions that say their people are better than other people, like the Nazi religion or the Judaism religion, in fact I'm against all religions) and I do not believe for a second that religious Jews conspire in any way, like Raul Hilberg believes the religious Nazis conspired through mind reading. That, my friends, is preposterous.

Edit: If you read Raul Hilberg's book The Destruction of European Jews you'd learn that in 1933 the final solution was deportation. Only after 1941 is it ever seriously claimed by mainstream historians that the final solution became killing. So Judea declared war on Germany over their plans to deport Jews. This should put things in perspective and this is mainstream history no matter how uncomfortable for you it is to accept.

PS: if you do come up with a source, please also address why Raul Hilberg did not consider that a source when he testified under oath in 1985.

PPS: downvoters, could you please point out where I'm wrong or why am I deserving of downvoting?

Having a Final Solution of "only" deporting Jews - after taking their possessions - and murdering just a few, for a warning or for a bit of fun, is not really that much more humane than the later industrial extermination into which things developed. Or let's say that making a point about difference there is just, well, gross.

Starting to give sources to a revisionist, regarding Nazi persecution of Jews not only as retaliation for a "Judea against Germany" boycott "act of war", is much like starting to play chess with a flock of pigeons. There's no point.

I want to make sure I read that correctly.

You're saying deportation is not that much more humane than mass extermination? Wow. No comments there.

There's a lot more evidence that the Third Reich had a Transfer Agreement with the Zionists than there is that the Nazis wanted to kill all Jews.

And stop calling me a revisionist when all I argue is from mainstream sources. You don't give me sources because there aren't any, like the respectable mainstream holocaust historian, Raul Hilberg, said under oath in 1985.

Sources are not relevant for what you argue. Yes, Hillberg is a good source. You just misuse him.

The start of this thread was a comment with a link that described how Hitler defied the bankers. That stuff is nonsense. The Nazi economic policy was bonkers, or would have been if it weren’t just a preparation for a war of conquest, which it was. It couldn’t have sustained in peace.

It started with a massive monetary expansion by issuing the so-called "Mefo bills", and went on nicely for a few years. Expropriating the wealth of Jews – and non-Jewish but pacifist or socialist businessmen like Hugo Junkers – helped in the beginning, of course. In just five years after gaining power, the Nazis were annexing their neighbours and confiscating the wealth of Austria and Czechoslovakia, which enabled them to keep going for another year or two.

"How Hitler defied bankers" was more a policy of expropriation – justified by hate and rancour – and then military expansion, rather than economics. Nazi Germany couldn’t operate in peace mode; it had to start a war of conquest and resort to slave labour to keep its economics working.

Drawing parallels with "bankers" and "World Jewry" is a tool in the classic anti-Semitist kit. Hitler hated Jews, as he documented his idea of cleaning Jews away in Mein Kampf. It is disgusting to imply that this is sort of okay because originally Jews were just to be deported, not exterminated, and then Jews brought their misfortune on themselves by some "declaration of war" by "World Jewry" that then "provoked" the extermination.

Yes, read Hillberg. Read Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, particularly chapter 7 about nazification of Germany. And please read the book to the very deserved end.

Not everything that Nazis did was bad or crazy, but much of it was. The economics certainly was. "How Hitler defied the bankers" is no model to build an economic policy, unless you plan to make war.

Alright. We mostly agree.

The only reason I spoke up is because it irks me that some people are quick to stifle debates on certain topics just because they might involve the Jews. You're a classic case, playing the "anti-Semite" card and banging on that "bring onto themselves" key that no one else mentioned but you. To me that says something about your agenda, as most pro-Israel people react that way.

For all your hatred of revisionists, you and I should be thankful that we know more accurate death tolls for Majdanek, Auschwitz and the Reinhardt Action camps because of them. Otherwise we'd still have those inflated, unbelievable numbers that were sacred a couple decades ago. Revisionists are intellectuals first of all (this much even Michael Shermer admitted on C-SPAN) and they have a good track record of smelling bullshit (see David Cole and the Auschwitz museum lying about a reconstructed gas chamber). I think it's a shame we thank them by throwing them in jail and you should be ashamed to participate in that censoring behavior.

The way to curb intolerance is not to suppress discussion, nor to call people names. The "Hitler vs bankers" story is wrong not because whoever talked about it might be an anti-Semite according to you; it's wrong because the facts don't check. If revisionists are intellectuals, we must argue with them and show them wrong. Calling them names won't do any good because it doesn't change what they think.

Bottom line is, if Palestine did not aid the Nazis in killing Jews, why must they suffer a holocaust? This motivates more WWII research by independent thinkers than this silly banker/Jews association you have in your head. Bankers are bad because of money printing machines, libor conspiracies, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan folks working at the Fed, and so on. Zero to do with ethnicity. Get this through your head. This association you make is a red herring to avoid discussing the real issue which is the present day holocaust and genocide of the Palestinian people who are also Semites just like their oppressors. I side with the Hasidim Jews and informed secular Jews all over for bravely opposing this disgusting Zionist obsession.

If this were really about relocating the Jews, they should just live here in the US, where they are welcome by all rational people including me. Of course, Zionism has zero to do with Jews, and everything to do with power hungry bankers that want control of a place where real money comes out of the ground and from where they can run pipelines to 90% of the world. But please, go on distracting everyone about how everything is about the Jews.

Presentation of data is hard/art. The obvious: Bahamas, $7B, population 320 000 versus US $13.4 Less obvious (I suppose) Israel (6) , $10B, pop 8,2 million and 6554 clients; Belgium (10), $6.3B, pop 11,1 million and 3002 clients India (16), $4.1B pop > 1200 million and 1668 clients

It's perhaps not a coincidence that those countries are active in the diamond trade. Perhaps it is. But that information is in the data.

Are all the "clients" listed as persons or are some of the corporations? I know for a fact that the Bahamas is used massively as an endpoint for many tax evasion schemes, going through shell company after shell company and ending up there, which is then spent there (which is why the Bahamian gov doesn't really do anything to stop it.)

Cannot see full list somehow . But thanks for uploading . Why not give full raw data . Headline is little misleading .

It's those damn Greeks again who tax avoid...look at all those righteous Europeans honoring their obligations...

A flat taxation system (with say the starting point for tax at £25,000) seems like a good plan?

I also think taxes on business and taxes on individuals should also be harmonised.

Add in a general tax avoidance rule and you are good to go.

What is a "general tax avoidance rule"?

Generally, tax evasion is a crime that can and should be prosecuted. Everyone agrees with that.

Tax avoidance, or tax planning, is in Wikipedia terms "the legal usage of the tax regime to one's own advantage to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law."

So, tax avoidance is the kind of behaviour that is explicitly and clearly legal. Now someone wants to make a "rule", apparently to somehow punish for it?

Of course there are loopholes and quirks in any tax system, and people are exploiting them. Particularly the rich. But the solution is to close loopholes and make the tax system simpler and clearer, not have a "general tax avoidance rule" which I take to mean arbitrary confiscation and punishment according to political whims.

Often, the purpose of a GAAR is to stop people from setting up artificial arrangements just for the purpose to avoid tax.

Let's say you sell something in the UK, and then route the money around the world to make use of loopholes in the laws of various countries, only to have the profit end up in the UK again.

Transactions for business purposes are generally accepted.

Yes, but this is not easy.

I heard (don't recall where) that a while back someone proposed a new tax in Sweden: "tax on work that was avoided with the intention of avoiding tax".

I.e. a doctor was working 40 hours a week and was paying >50 % of income as taxes, and decided that it's not worth it to work so hard if government takes most of the proceeds, so reduced working time to 35 hours a week.

The proposal was to tax him/her anyway on the calculated income of those 40 hours, because quite clearly working only 35 hours was an arrangement just for the purpose to avoid tax.

This is apocryphic, and anyway didn't go through even in Sweden.

Indeed. Those kinds of situations showcase the problems of taxation that is too high, not the other way around.

It gets quite ridiculous sometimes, especially since 2008. Governments are looking for cash everywhere, and they don't mind challenging whatever comes their way.

It doesn't cost them anything to challenge arrangements, so why not try? At worst, they lose and they will have lost some time. Civil servants are being paid anyway. At best, someone pays up because they realise it's not worth the fight.

I read about a case here in Belgium where there was someone who wanted to move to Spain for non tax reasons. The tax administration levied an additional tax on some of his income, because they said his move to Spain was motivated by tax avoidance reasons. A judge ruled on the matter, saying they have no right to keep taxing someone who just wants to relocate, especially when it was pretty clear tax wasn't the motivation.

The fact is, they tried anyway, costing this guy tens of thousands in legal expenses. He was only granted a few thousand by the court as compensation.

Quite. That case sounds frivolous, considering that we're talking about two EU countries, and the whole point of EU is that people (labour) and money (capital) can move from member country to other, without duties. But it does not surprise me that when a government starts a frivolous case, they incur frivolous expenses on others, and will not compensate. Belgium appears to be at the top end of world when it comes to tax revenue as % of GDP (after Denmark and Zimbabwe, of all places), and it is no wonder the system starts creaking at joints.

In a way, they always win if we’re talking relatively small amounts (<€50k).

If you have to pay €10-20k for a decent lawyer to deal with a case, that tax lawyer in turn will be taxed on that income at income tax/corporate tax rates (+ VAT tends to be charged as well).

It's a pretty decent strategy for a government, but not one I would appreciate if someone were to use it in a business setting.

That means shareholders will be taxed twice, once at the corporate level, and once at the individual level, leading to double taxation (unless a tax credit is given).

But, like you, I'm a big fan of a simple flat tax, with relatively little deductions.

As long as the flat tax applies to profit rather than revenue (for both individuals and companies), that wouldn't lead to double taxation. Salaries are an expense.

Two scenarios:

1/ Shareholder and CEO. My company generates €1M in profit. I pay myself a salary of €1M, and pay a flat tax on my salary. The business pays no tax.

2/ CEO, but no shareholder. The company generates €1M in profit, and pays flat tax on that €1M. Dividends flow to shareholders, and they're taxed again?

Situation one would mean that owner run businesses can be more competitive than non owner run businesses. After all, that owner could, after taking out his salary, just loan that money back to the business.

3/ What do you do with foreign companies that levy corporate tax, and then declare a dividend? Do you tax it again at the flat tax in the hands of the shareholder?

[Disclaimer: this is a rough idea, not a tax code. Almost certainly needs further thought to make sure there aren't any unwanted incentives for strange behavior.]

> 1/ Shareholder and CEO. My company generates €1M in profit. I pay myself a salary of €1M, and pay a flat tax on my salary. The business pays no tax.


> 2/ CEO, but no shareholder. The company generates €1M in profit, and pays flat tax on that €1M. Dividends flow to shareholders, and they're taxed again?

Dividends don't magically appear out of nowhere; they're paid out of profits, just like a salary. (Some companies pay out the majority of their profits as dividends, others pay none at all.) They'd either get taxed at the business because they're not paid out, or taxed at the shareholders because they are, not both.

As much as I'd hate to point at it as an example of anything, think VAT, with its notion of "where was the value added", but on the income side, as "where was the profit extracted". Either a VAT-style sales tax (with less doublespeak) or a flat profit tax seems like a workable model. And much like VAT's presumption of paying sales tax unless you show that you bought something taxed, the presumption is that you're paying tax on every dollar of income/revenue, unless you provide evidence in the form of having paid that dollar to someone else who then paid tax on it (or who provided evidence that they paid it to ...).

Interestingly, that then means that if you take money out of the country and out of the economy, you get to pay all the taxes on it at that point. That seems like a nice side effect.

The structure ends up looking a lot like VAT, with a key difference: it affects all transactions, without requiring any kind of code defining taxable/non-taxable items. But apart from that, I think your questions just demonstrated that a profit tax effectively turns into VAT.

Half of the tax code for a flat tax on profits would probably end up being absurdly precise definitions of what "profit" means. (Then again, the other half, or the whole tax code for a flat tax on income, would probably end up being absurdly precise definitions for what "income" means.)

(To preempt the obvious response: yes, there are companies, such as the one-off shell companies constructed to make films, that intentionally construct their books such that they don't actually make any profit. However, that money has to go somewhere, and it'll get taxed there.)

That said, it wouldn't be the end of the world to just make it a flat (and much lower) tax on income rather than on profits. That'd be a much simpler system; it would, however, be much more of a drag force on the economy, like the current tax system. Hard tradeoff.

> 3/ What do you do with foreign companies that levy corporate tax, and then declare a dividend? Do you tax it again at the flat tax in the hands of the shareholder?

[I'm assuming you mean "foreign companies in a jurisdiction that levies corporate tax"?]

The situation definitely gets more difficult with a non-self-contained economy and multiple tax structures. It's a flat tax, so it shouldn't have a complex set of deductions and loopholes, especially that only apply to large multinational businesses. So yeah, I think you'd have to just ignore the foreign corporate tax, and treat the money paid as a dividend as income entering the economy.

> Dividends don't magically appear out of nowhere; they're paid out of profits, just like a salary. (Some companies pay out the majority of their profits as dividends, others pay none at all.) They'd either get taxed at the business because they're not paid out, or taxed at the shareholders because they are, not both.

This is not how it works. Salaries are not paid from profits. After the salaries and all the other costs of the business are paid, the company gives the state its share of what is left and keeps the rest (profits). Dividends are paid with this money that is left after taxes. And then (in general) are taxed again when the shareholder receives them.

I'm well aware of how the situation works today; this was a hypothetical different structure. And I'm specifically suggesting that dividends and salaries should both effectively be treated as "costs" that reduce profits.

I'm sorry, I misunderstood your comment. I assume you would not consider costs other uses of capital as buybacks, acquisitions or investments? In any case, I think it would be easier to tax dividends together with the rest of the profit and make it tax-free for the receiver. Otherwise you would have a problem with foreign shareholders and in particular with foreign-owned subsidiaries that would otherwise pay no taxes. There are already mechanisms to tax these distributions, but if you move the taxation of dividends fully to the shareholder side the resulting system would become even more complex.

I'm sure many would argue that such a change would be "transferring money to the pockets of the rich".

Any attempt to construct a flat tax would probably be interpreted as such.

Ranked countries by the money per client. CSV: http://pastebin.com/jvkapPT4


There are more than 100.000 names in that list and plenty of people would like to know them all. All of them.

Wait, reading the wrong article. Thought this was about Swizz Beats.

No URL fragments, no party. It doesn't matter how fancy your js navigation is, if each view doesn't have its own URL that can be used to recreate it, it can't be bookmarked or shared.

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