Douglas Carswell

07 APR 2016

In the digital world, tax havens aren't just for the rich

The Panama Papers have sparked an international furore. But haven't we heard it all before? The political pledges to close tax loopholes. The socialist slogans saying 'soak the rich'. The disputes about the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Isn't there anything new to say?

Here's something the pundits are missing: tax havens aren't just for the rich anymore.

The digital revolution means it's not just plutocrats who can hide their wealth away. Anyone can do it. Create a Bitcoin wallet, and you too can store wealth in secret, and access it from anywhere in the world.

Digital wallets create a conundrum for the taxman. How can governments clamp down on tax evasion when every iPhone could be a tax haven?

Perhaps we should be looking at something bolder than tweaking the rules. If you buy or sell a house, the amount you pay is a matter of public record. What if the money you paid to and received from the State were publicly disclosed too?

In Scandinavia, tax returns are publicly accessible. Imagine you could read David Cameron's tax returns. Would total transparency keep our leaders completely scrupulous?

Well, not necessarily. Look at the Icelandic PM: you wouldn't find anything untoward on his tax returns – because he didn't declare the dodgy assets.

Maybe we need to accept there are no easy answers. The tax base is liquid. The only thing we can really do to level the playing the field is to have lower, simpler taxes for everyone.

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The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy

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