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Offshore financial centers: parasites or symbionts?


  • Andrew K. Rose
  • Mark M. Spiegel


This paper analyzes the causes and consequences of offshore financial centers (OFCs). Since OFCs are likely to be tax havens and money launderers, they encourage bad behavior in source countries. Nevertheless, OFCs may also have unintended positive consequences for their neighbors, since they act as a competitive fringe for the domestic banking sector. We derive and simulate a model of a home country monopoly bank facing a representative competitive OFC which offers tax advantages attained by moving assets offshore at a cost that is increasing in distance between the OFC and the source. Our model predicts that proximity to an OFC is likely to have pro-competitive implications for the domestic banking sector, although the overall effect on welfare is ambiguous. We test and confirm the predictions empirically. Proximity to an OFC is associated with a more competitive domestic banking system and greater overall financial depth.

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  • Andrew K. Rose & Mark M. Spiegel, 2005. "Offshore financial centers: parasites or symbionts?," Working Paper Series 2005-05, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2005-05

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
    2. Ross Levine & Norman Loayza & Thorsten Beck, 2002. "Financial Intermediation and Growth: Causality and Causes," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Leonardo Hernández & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Se (ed.), Banking, Financial Integration, and International Crises, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 2, pages 031-084 Central Bank of Chile.
    3. Huizinga, Harry & Nielsen, Soren Bo, 2003. "Withholding taxes or information exchange: the taxation of international interest flows," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 39-72, January.
    4. Philip R. Lane & Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, 2008. "International Investment Patterns," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 538-549, August.
    5. Barth, James R. & Caprio, Gerard Jr. & Levine, Ross, 2004. "Bank regulation and supervision: what works best?," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 205-248, April.
    6. James R. Hines & Eric M. Rice, 1994. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens and American Business," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 149-182.
    7. Luca Errico & Alberto Musalem Borrero, 1999. "Offshore Banking; An Analysis of Micro- and Macro-Prudential Issues," IMF Working Papers 99/5, International Monetary Fund.
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    More about this item


    Banks and banking; International ; Competition ; Bank supervision;

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • F36 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Financial Aspects of Economic Integration

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