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Treasure Islands

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  • James R. Hines

Abstract

In movies and novels, tax havens are often settings for shady international deals; in practice, they are rather less flashy. Tax havens, also known as "offshore financial centers" or "international financial centers," are countries and territories that offer low tax rates and favorable regulatory policies to foreign investors. For example, tax havens typically tax inbound investment at zero or very low rates and further encourage investment with telecommunications and transportation facilities, other business infrastructure, favorable legal environments, and limited bureaucratic hurdles to starting new firms. Tax havens are small; most are islands; all but a few have populations below one million; and they have above-average incomes. The United States and other higher-tax countries frequently express concerns over how tax havens may affect their economies. Do they erode domestic tax collections; attract economic activity away from higher-tax countries; facilitate criminal activities; or reduce the transparency of financial accounts and so impede the smooth operation and regulation of legal and financial systems around the world? Do they contribute to excessive international tax competition? These concerns are plausible, albeit often founded on anecdotal rather than systematic evidence. Yet tax haven policies may also benefit other economies and even facilitate the effective operation of the tax systems of other countries. This paper evaluates evidence of the economic effects of tax havens.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.24.4.103
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 24 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
Pages: 103-26

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:24:y:2010:i:4:p:103-26

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.4.103
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  1. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2008. "International profit shifting within multinationals: A multi-country perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1164-1182, June.
  2. Hines, J.R. & Rice, E.M., 1990. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens And American Business," Papers 56, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  3. Clausing, Kimberly A., 2009. "Multinational Firm Tax Avoidance and Tax Policy," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(4), pages 703-25, December.
  4. Michael Keen, 1997. "Vertical Tax Externalities in the Theory of Fiscal Federalism," IMF Working Papers 97/173, International Monetary Fund.
  5. W Hejazi & P Pauly, 2003. "Motivations for FDI and domestic capital formation," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 34(3), pages 282-289, May.
  6. Desai, Mihir A. & Foley, C. Fritz & Hines, James Jr., 2006. "The demand for tax haven operations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 513-531, February.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Shafik Hebous, 2011. "Money at the Docks of Tax Havens: A Guide," CESifo Working Paper Series 3587, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Pieretti, Patrice & Thisse, Jacques-François & Zanaj, Skerdilajda, 2011. "Tax havens or safe havens," CEPR Discussion Papers 8570, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Patrice Pieretti & Jacques-François Thisse & Skerdilajda Zanaj, 2014. "Offshore financial centers and bank secrecy," CREA Discussion Paper Series 14-02, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
  4. May Elsayyad & Kai A. Konrad, 2011. "Fighting Multiple Tax Havens," Working Papers fighting_multiple_tax_hav, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
  5. Butkiewicz, James L. & Gordon, Leo-Rey C., 2013. "The Economic Growth Effect of Offshore Banking in Host Territories: Evidence from the Caribbean," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 165-179.
  6. Johannesen, Niels, 2014. "Tax evasion and Swiss bank deposits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 46-62.
  7. Shafik Hebous & Vilen Lipatov, 2011. "A Journey from a Corruption Port to a Tax Haven," CESifo Working Paper Series 3620, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Patrice Pieretti & Jacques-François Thisse & Skerdilajda Zanaj, 2013. "Offshore financial centers: Safe or tax havens," CREA Discussion Paper Series 13-20, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
  9. Jørgen Juel Andersen & Niels Johannesen & David Dreyer Lassen & Elena Paltseva, 2013. "Petro Rents, Political Institutions, and Hidden Wealth: Evidence from Bank Deposits in Tax Havens," Working Papers 0016, Centre for Applied Macro- and Petroleum economics (CAMP), BI Norwegian Business School.
  10. Andreas Haufler & Marco Runkel, 2008. "Firms' financial choices and thin capitalization rules under corporate tax competition," Working Papers 0815, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  11. Johanna Hey & Ulrich Schreiber & Fabian Pönnighaus & Felix Bierbrauer, 2013. "Steueroasen und »legale Steuervermeidung«: Wie kann größere Steuergerechtigkeit erreicht werden?," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 66(11), pages 03-13, 06.
  12. Doran, Justin & O'Leary, Eoin, 2013. "The Roles of R&D and networking for innovation by Irish and foreign-owned firms: evidence from the Irish CIS 2006-08," MPRA Paper 47291, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Anken, F. & Beasley, J.E., 2012. "Corporate structure optimisation for multinational companies," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 230-243, April.
  14. Tino Sanandaji, 2014. "The international mobility of billionaires," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 42(2), pages 329-338, February.

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