This week, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) unveiled the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009, which “would require an array of new reporting by foreign financial institutions in an attempt to give the IRS more data to detect fraud and tax evasion.” “This bill offers foreign banks a simple choice — if you wish to access our capital markets, you have to report on U.S. account holders,” said Rangel.
The Baucus/Rangel bill does go a long way toward preventing another UBS situation, in which loads of individuals are able to shelter their money offshore. However, unlike a bill sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the Baucus/Rangel legislation doesn’t go after multinational corporations that set up shell companies on foreign soil in order to avoid U.S. taxes. As Doggett said, it “stops short of targeting all fat cats.”
Dogget and Levin’s legislation, the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, “would require more scrutiny of shell corporations’ actual owners and create a ‘blacklist’ of countries in which certain transactions would be more suspect.” “U.S. corporations should not be able to dodge U.S. taxes simply by filing a piece of paper and renting a foreign mailbox,” Doggett said.
And providing evidence that the Baucus/Rangel bill doesn’t strike fear into the tax haven world is the fact that the Cayman Islands’ financial sector is celebrating it:
Cayman Finance, representing the financial industry based in the Cayman Islands, today congratulated Chairman Max Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman Rangel of the House Ways and Means Committee on their plan to tackle offshore tax abuse through increased transparency and enhanced reporting requirements. The new comprehensive proposal does away with the damaging features of Senator Levin’s Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act…”Cayman Finance commends Chairman Baucus, Chairman Rangel and their colleagues for their leadership on this important issue,” said Cayman Finance Chairman Anthony Travers. “This proposal is entirely consistent with the approach suggested by Cayman Finance in our many meetings with these and other U.S. policymakers.”
The Cayman News Service described the feeling amongst the Cayman’s financiers as “relief.”
Of course, the Caymans are one of world’s most well-known tax havens. The Government Accountability Office actually found that 18,857 U.S. companies maintained a post office box in one five story building in the Caymans. That building has only one occupant, the law firm Maples and Calder. Morgan Stanley has 158 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, while Citigroup has 90, and Bank of America has 58. Exxon, Dell, Goldman Sachs, News Corp., Pepsi, and United-Health have all set up shop there, as well.
Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) estimates that the stronger tax haven crackdown in Doggett and Levin’s bill would result in revenues of $9 billion over ten years. The Baucus/Rangel bill, as a whole, raises $8.5 billion over ten years.