A group of small business owners and investors released a report on offshore tax havens this week and launched a campaign to put an end to the tax avoidance that they facilitate.
The group, Business and Investors Against Tax Haven Abuse, explains that tax havens provide an unfair advantage to large chain retailers and financial companies over locally-owned retailers and community banks. Target, Best Buy, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and other well-known corporations are able to shift profits to their subsidiaries in places like the Cayman Islands (where they do little or no actual business) to reduce or eliminate their U.S. taxes. Independent "mom and pop" retailers are at a huge disadvantage just because they don't have subsidiaries set up in foreign countries solely to reduce their taxes.
It's not just independent and locally-owned businesses that suffer. All honest taxpayers are being cheated, the report explains, because the huge U.S. multinational corporations that use tax havens are actually doing most or all of their actual business in the U.S., meaning they are benefiting from the American education system, legal system, highways and other types of infrastructure even though they are not doing their part to pay for these public goods and services.
A particularly interesting part of the report explains how tax havens also helped facilitate shady financial dealings that contributed to the financial collapse. It cites reports that Goldman Sachs was using subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands when it "peddled billions of dollars in shaky securities tied to subprime mortgages on unsuspecting pension funds, insurance companies and other investors when it concluded that the housing bubble would burst."
For too long, lawmakers have responded to efforts to end offshore tax avoidance as some sort of wild attack on the free market. Now that business people themselves are sounding the alarm, lawmakers should listen.