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Paradise Papers reveal very little we didn’t already know

 
Infinox Contributor
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How much impact are the Paradise Papers likely to have? Not much, is the answer — at least if the Panama Papers are anything to go by.

Leaked in 2015, the Panama Papers, which also revealed the super-rich used offshore tax havens, caused some mild embarrassment but led to very little change.

Then British Prime Minister David Cameron saw much of his own business affairs and those of his father published. But only Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign following the leak of the documents.

For the most part, the leak showed nothing more than what might best be described as prudent financial management. Very little illegality was found.

There followed a half-hearted attempt by Mr Cameron to reform offshore tax havens, given that many of them happen to be British overseas territories. But without the support of the US, tax reform could never be fully achieved.

The Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the rest would simply have seen their economies damaged, possibly irreparably, as the ultra-wealthy moved their affairs to offshore tax havens that did still enable them to shelter their money.

Ultimately, without a multilateral approach to international tax reform new revelations, such as we are now seeing with the Paradise Papers, will continue every few years.

Once again, there will be some mild embarrassment for those whose financial affairs enter the public domain, followed by the usual howls of righteous indignation from commentators who decry the level of inequality between the super-rich and the rest of society — before another half-hearted attempt at reform fails.

Knowing all this makes it hard to summon the required level of outrage some in the media now believe we should all feel.

Normally with stories of this nature the media will report the biggest revelations first in order to gain the public’s attention.

Now, is it potentially embarrassing for the Queen that the organisation that manages her finances invested £10 million offshore? Yes, but there is no suggestion the Duchy of Lancaster has done anything illegal or that the Queen has avoided paying tax.

Aside from that there is the revelation that Lord Ashcroft remained a Non-Dom for tax purposes after saying that he would change his tax status on becoming a peer. This is not a particularly new or exciting revelation.

In fact, the only revelation of genuine interest thus far appears to be that legendary US investor and President Trump’s current Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, has had business dealings with Russian allies of President Vladimir Putin who are under US sanctions.

If Monday's revelations are the best stories to come out of these investigations, it seems unlikely to stay very interesting for very long.

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