Tax havens are in many ways the liger of the financial world: everyone knows they exist, but few among us have ever seen one. They exist in a realm most of us remain blissfully unaware of, accessed only by the wealthiest in society.
However, fresh off their 15 minutes of fame during Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, tax havens are now being promoted more openly as investment companies try to stoke rich people’s fears and encourage them to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Exhibit A is an investment company named Buy Belize, whose website appeals to wealthy individuals who “lose sleep over the security of [their] assets & hard-earned money” using right-wing language terminology such as “death taxes,” which they incorrectly list at 55 percent (it’s actually 40 percent). The group encourages people to take their money out of the United States and store it in Belize instead, which they call “one of world’s top tax havens — a truly safe locale for your money.” Buy Belize also offers to set up shell companies — International Business Companies — to “protect investments from taxes as well as legal judgments.”
Buy Belize also advertises on The Glenn Beck Program, appealing to wealthy people who are “frustrated, nervous, and worried about change” to open offshore accounts in Belize, “one of the last tax havens left in the world.”
Listen to the radio ad:
Offshore accounts are a principal mechanism rich people and corporations use to avoid paying taxes in the United States. A study last year found that the super-wealthy around the world are shielding at least $21 trillion in secret offshore tax havens, and the problem has grown significantly in the past few years. And it isn’t just Mitt Romney who stores his wealth in foreign tax havens. In 2012, the 60 largest corporations in America offshored $166 billion, costing American taxpayers billions in lost revenue. As a result, this loss of tax revenue is draining federal and state budgets.
To learn more about offshore accounts, listen to NPR’s Planet Money as they demonstrate opening up a shell company “UnBelizeAble.”