Tax haven: 'Biggest tax scam'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dr. Annette Zavareei is more than just a Charleston counselor. She's also an activist who jumps into crusades.
In the 1990s, she went to war-torn Bosnia to help refugees. Then she helped relocate some Bosnian families to Charleston. For this, she was given a humanitarian award by the American Counseling Association.
Recently, she joined a different crusade. She went on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by The Nation magazine and CodePink. At George Town on Grand Cayman Island, her group of more than 100 went to a waterfront office building, Ugland House, a notorious tax shelter that is the official address of 18,857 corporations.
The group staged a public protest, waving signs saying "Send Our Tax Money Home" and "We Want Our Money Back" and the like. (MSNBC News coverage is on YouTube here.)
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said the Cayman building supposedly holding 18,000 corporate offices was "either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world."
Defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is just one of numerous American multimillionaires keeping money in the low-tax Caymans.
After the Nation/CodePink protest, a Cayman law firm based in Ugland House, Maples & Calder, issued a statement saying its 18,000 clients don't violate any tax laws. If American reformers dislike the arrangement, it said, they should persuade Congress to change America's tax code.
Great idea. Is it impossible to revise statutes so the rich cannot elude their fair share of support for America by funneling cash abroad? We hope West Virginia's Congress members pursue this question.
The Financial Times of London, which has more than 2 million worldwide subscribers, wrote:
"Like dozens of law firms operating in Grand Cayman, the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens, Maples & Calder help their international clientele avoid some U.S. taxes by creating offshore entities, establishing trusts or opening checking and savings accounts.... For the Caymans, a British crown colony 150 miles southwest of Cuba, business and financial services contribute 30 percent of its gross domestic product and employ more than 20 percent of its labor force. Operating a tax haven has helped make the tiny island chain the fifth-largest banking center ranked by assets."
Think of that: An island's economy depends heavily on helping the wealthy duck taxes. Again, we wish Congress would halt this odious practice.