Resources

The Paradise Papers: A Year Later

By Jacob Wills

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the release of The Paradise Papers, a leak that included 13 million documents from a large offshore law firm.  The leak detailed a number of tax avoidance techniques used by the wealthy and multinational corporations to avoid taxes.  At the same time, Congress was rushing to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In light of the Paradise Papers revelations, we encouraged lawmakers to carefully review the information from the leak and consider whether their overhaul would address the tax dodging practices exposed.  They chose not to do so.

Unlike the earlier Panama Papers story, where Americans were notably absent, the Paradise Papers had clear U.S. connections.  There was extensive data on the tax avoidance schemes of at least 31,000 U.S. citizens, residents, and companies including household names like Apple, Nike, and Uber.  Rather than consider lessons to be learned around how policies might work in practice, lawmakers chose to ignore the warning signs.  The tax law passed just over a month later with minimal attention paid to any of the insights to be gleaned from the leak.  It should not be surprising that the law continues to encourage multinational corporations to engage in offshore tax schemes.

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Shell Companies Allow Robocallers to Make Billions of Illegal Phone Calls

By Adam Felsenthal

Back in June, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) formally filed a complaint alleging that TelWeb, a telemarketing system, used multiple shell companies to bypass laws against telemarketing robocalls. TelWeb has been the target of other lawsuits by the FTC.  The investigation alleges that the system was used to conduct billions of illegal phone calls by telemarketers through an enterprise of shell companies.

The fact that this same system has been the target of so many separate investigations is evidence of a larger problem — companies can be formed in the United States without disclosing their beneficial ownership information (the people who truly own them), allowing criminals to quickly rebrand and jump right back into doing the same illegal activities under a fresh new corporate name. TelWeb was able to use multiple shell companies throughout its scamming system, and the men in charge of connecting TelWeb to telemarketers have a history of being named in previous FTC lawsuits.  Yet they were able to continue in the industry under different names.

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‘Financial Exposure’ Showcases Tax Misconduct by Powerful Individuals and Corporations

By Peter Della-Rocca

The story of tireless congressional staff uncovering brazen misdeeds by powerful individuals and corporations in Elise J. Bean’s Financial Exposure has an anchoring quality in the context of rampant scandal that has come to characterize today’s politics. Bean’s account reiterates the point that tax avoidance and tax evasion were endemic to our financial system long before allegations against a sitting president brought them to the forefront of the public consciousness.

While the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) is an investigative body rather than a policymaking one, the inquiries into abusive tax shelterssecretive banking practices, and corporate tax avoidance that Bean describes illustrate some of the central policy problems plaguing the American tax system.

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Revealing Big Pharma’s tax dodging: The story behind the numbers

By Robbie Silverman

Critics may argue the data we base our calculations on is incomplete, the methodology with which we calculate tax loss figures simplistic. And they are right.

Our tax loss estimates are rough because corporate secrecy limited our access to data. We analyzed information for only a small subset of the dozens of countries in which pharma corporations operate, and only a subset of their subsidiaries in those countries. The data we found is just the tip of the iceberg, especially for developing countries.

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The Downside of Boston’s Luxury Building Boom

By Chuck Collins

Boston is being transformed by a luxury housing boom. A decade from now, the city’s skyline and population demographics will be fundamentally altered by decisions being made today.

This boom has clear benefits, providing jobs in the building trades and increasing property tax revenue for the city. And the city has negotiated for affordable housing set-aside or linkage funds from some projects. But the boom is not doing enough to address Boston’s acute affordable housing crisis and will accelerate economic inequality in the city.

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New Study Confirms Offshore Earnings are Flowing into Stock Buybacks, Not Jobs and Investments

By Richard Phillips

For years, corporations stockpiled profits offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes, with the sum growing to $2.6 trillion by 2017. Corporate apologists suggested that this cache was necessary because the corporate tax rate was too high, and they asserted that if the United States lowered its tax rate, corporations would repatriate those profits, pay taxes, invest in workers and we’d all win.

In 2016, then candidate Trump claimed there is as much as $5 trillion overseas and a tax break on those earnings would cause “all of this money to come back into our country” and “turn America into a magnet for new jobs.”

Based on previous experience with a repatriation holiday in 2004, critics argued that another repatriation tax break would be a major windfall to corporations that would enrich shareholders and accomplish little else.

In the end, corporations and their allies got their way.

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FACT Sheet: Treasury’s CDD Rule: One Piece to a Larger Puzzle

Drug traffickers, corrupt officials, rogue nations seeking to evade sanctions, terrorists, and other criminals use anonymous companies to hide the money they steal and maintain the power they hold.

Many of the most dangerous criminal elements now operate sophisticated financial networks.  They have updated the way they do “business,” which Includes the use of companies with hidden owners.   As the rest of the world cracks down on corporate secrecy, the criminals and other wrongdoers are looking increasingly to the U.S.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Rule for Financial Institutions1 is a critical piece in a larger strategy to protect the integrity of our financial system from abuse and the nation from a broad array of harms.

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