Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Simon Kennedy highlights another key finding in Oxfam's latest study on wealth, as the global 1% now owns as much as the other 99% combined. And Dennis Howlett reviews Gabriel Zucman's Hidden Wealth of Nations, while noting that like the works it seeks to update it may fall short of measuring how much is being hidden from tax authorities:
Zucman  dissects several failed attempts to reign in tax havens including the G20/OECD on-demand exchange of information, the American Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) (link is external)legislation and the European Union’s Savings Tax Directive. He estimates that globally about 8% of households’ financial wealth is held in tax havens. That works out to be about $7.6 trillion dollars or about $200 billion a year in lost revenue. He arrives at these numbers by comparing the national balance sheets to identify the difference between the assets and liabilities between nations. This seems like an elegant and simple solution to estimating what is hidden in tax havens.  But Zucman admits that this estimate “excludes a certain amount of wealth.”

James Henry, in a more detailed study, The Price of Offshore Revisited (link is external), done for the Tax Justice Network in 2012, estimates that the figure is closer to $21 to $32 trillion. Henry says Zucman vastly underestimates the role of developing countries and kleptocracy. He also notes the ommission of  offshore currency hoards, estimated at  $1.8 trillion. Henry also claims Zucman ignores estimates of private bank Assets Under Management -- now at least $13 trillion. Finally, Henry points out that Zucman ignores offshore nonfinancial assets like real estate, gold, precious metals, art, and ships, which is worth at least $10 trillion.

Henry plans to update his study which will likely show even more wealth going to tax havens. Zucman also acknowledges that his figure does not include corporate tax avoidance, which is often done legally, taking advantage of all the loopholes and weak tax laws that allow them to do this. Zucman does estimate that corporations are depriving governments of a third of corporate tax revenues by employing tax haven based subsidiaries to shift profits and lower their tax bill.
- Jessica Toale writes that the need for sustainable and broadly-shared economic development is just as obvious in the UK as in the countries normally associated with development goals.

- Deirdre Fulton notes that the U.S.' TTIP trade deal with Europe is rightly coming under fire for prioritizing the wealthy few over everybody else. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the findings of a new study showing that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will actually destroy jobs in Canada, while doing more to shift money from the bottom to the top than to boost economic growth.

- Max Stanfield discusses how postal banking would provide needed services in underserved communities while reducing reliance on predatory payday lenders.

- Finally, Ryan Meili offers a preview of what could be accomplished at this week's health minister summit. And Austin Frakt points out that even discussion about the unfairness of drug costs may be enough to reduce prices - though of course any resulting policy figures to be important to preserve the gains.

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