The U.S. is the easiest place in the world for a criminal, terrorist, tax cheat, or kleptocrat to open an anonymous shell company to launder their money with impunity. Anonymous corporations are great ways to hide money and other assets — they can hold a bank account or buy a yacht. Criminals often layer anonymous corporations, with one owning another and so on, making it even harder for law enforcement to “trace the money” and figure out who is directing the company’s activity. It’s time to ending the use of anonymous shell companies as vehicles for illicit activity by requiring that the true owners of U.S. companies be disclosed at the time of formation and updated upon any change.
Multinational companies do not publicly report on where they are making their money or what taxes they are paying to whom. Investors, policymakers, and citizens have no idea exactly how they are gaming the system—what they tell us versus what they tell other countries. They should have to write it down in one place and report it on a country-by-country basis, so that the public, policymakers, and shareholders can see what they are really paying.
There is widespread agreement, across the political spectrum, that the gaming of the tax code by multinational corporations is a problem. When profits and jobs are shipped offshore, we not only harm the U.S. economy, we fuel a tax haven industry that drains wealth around the world. We seek to fix the problem of large, well-connected interests gaming the tax system.
Money laundering fuels everything from terror finance and sanctions evasion to human trafficking and corruption. However, experts warn that our anti-money laundering efforts are on the brink of failure, as law enforcement only interdicts less than one-half of one percent of the trillions of dollars laundered each year. We need a new approach to addressing money laundering and the dangerous threats to our safety and security from the crimes funded through illicit finance.
Tax evasion from wealthy individuals using a variety of offshore schemes, including hiding assets in foreign bank accounts, robs U.S. taxpayers of tens of billions of dollars per year — and the costs for developing countries are even worse. A growing global norm in favor of transparency can ensure that all are held equally accountable for paying the taxes they owe.