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The Financial Secrecy Index: Shedding New Light on the Geography of Secrecy - Working Paper 404


  • Alex Cobham, Petr Janský, and Markus Meinzer


Both academic research and public policy debate around tax havens and offshore finance typically suffer from a lack of definitional consistency. Unsurprisingly then, there is little agreement about which jurisdictions ought to be considered as tax havens—or which policy measures would result in their not being so considered. In this article we explore and make operational an alternative concept, that of a secrecy jurisdiction and present the findings of the resulting Financial Secrecy Index (FSI). The FSI ranks countries and jurisdictions according to their contribution to opacity in global financial flows, revealing a quite different geography of financial secrecy from the image of small island tax havens that may still dominate popular perceptions and some of the literature on offshore finance. Some major (secrecy-supplying) economies now come into focus. Instead of a binary division between tax havens and others, the results show a secrecy spectrum, on which all jurisdictions can be situated, and that adjustment lfor the scale of business is necessary in order to compare impact propensity. This approach has the potential to support more precise and granular research findings and policy recommendations.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Cobham, Petr Janský, and Markus Meinzer, 2015. "The Financial Secrecy Index: Shedding New Light on the Geography of Secrecy - Working Paper 404," Working Papers 404, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:404

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    Cited by:

    1. Gerda Dewit & Dermot Leahy & Chris Jones & Yama Temouri, 2017. "Does Tax Haven FDI Influence Firm Performance?," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n284-17.pdf, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    2. Petr Janský & Miroslav Palanský, 2019. "Estimating the scale of profit shifting and tax revenue losses related to foreign direct investment," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(5), pages 1048-1103, October.
    3. Kirsten Martinus & Thomas Sigler & Iacopo Iacopini & Ben Derudder, 2019. "The role of tax havens and offshore financial centers in Asia-Pacific networks: evidence from firm-subsidiary connections," Asian Business & Management, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 18(5), pages 389-411, November.
    4. Alex Cobham & Petr Janský, 2019. "Measuring misalignment: The location of US multinationals’ economic activity versus the location of their profits," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 37(1), pages 91-110, January.
    5. Emma Galli & Ilde Rizzo & Carla Scaglioni, 2018. "Is transparency spatially determined? An empirical test for the Italian Municipalities," Working Papers 6/18, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.
    6. Gordon L. Clark & Karen P. Y. Lai & Dariusz Wójcik, 2015. "Editorial Introduction to the Special Section: Deconstructing Offshore Finance," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 91(3), pages 237-249, July.
    7. Javier Garcia-Bernardo & Jan Fichtner & Eelke M. Heemskerk & Frank W. Takes, 2017. "Uncovering Offshore Financial Centers: Conduits and Sinks in the Global Corporate Ownership Network," Papers 1703.03016,, revised May 2017.
    8. Alex Cobham & Petr Janský, 2017. "Global distribution of revenue loss from tax avoidance: Re-estimation and country results," WIDER Working Paper Series 055, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. Jan Rohan & Lukáš Moravec, 2017. "Tax Information Exchange Influence on Czech Based Companies’ Behavior in Relation to Tax Havens," Acta Universitatis Agriculturae et Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, Mendel University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 721-726.
    10. Cobham, Alex & Faccio, Tommaso & FitzGerald, Valpy, 2019. "Global inequalities in taxing rights: An early evaluation of the OECD tax reform proposals," SocArXiv j3p48, Center for Open Science.
    11. Valentina Gullo & Pierluigi Montalbano, 2018. "Where does “dirty” money go? A gravity analysis," Working Papers 5/18, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.
    12. Alex Cobham & Petr Janský, 2017. "Global distribution of revenue loss from tax avoidance: Re-estimation and country results," WIDER Working Paper Series 055, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    13. Jones, Chris & Temouri, Yama & Cobham, Alex, 2018. "Tax haven networks and the role of the Big 4 accountancy firms," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 177-193.

    More about this item


    tax havens; illicit financial flows;

    JEL classification:

    • F36 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Financial Aspects of Economic Integration
    • F65 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Finance


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