Among the Ultra-Rich, Tax Havens Are the Favored Way of Evading Taxes

Yesterday, as I was searching for some data on corporate use of tax havens, I clicked on the wrong link at Gabriel Zucman’s site. What I got instead was a slide presentation about the personal use of tax evasion among rich Scandinavians. Here’s one chart from the presentation:

If you look solely at tax evasion caught by audits (red dots), the rich have a higher rate of tax evasion than the poor, but not by a huge amount. However, it you include the use of offshore tax havens (blue dots), it turns out that the super rich avoid a lot of taxes. Here’s the result:

At the very tippy top, tax payments actually become regressive. The super-duper rich pay lower rates than the merely super-rich.

Now, maybe you don’t care about this. It’s Scandinavia, after all. And if the top 0.01 percent has declared war on the top 1 percent, maybe we should just get out the popcorn and watch the show.

But it’s a good bet that Americans use tax havens just as much as Scandinavians, and there’s increasing evidence about the power and influence that the super-duper rich exercise over politics. This is especially true in the post-Citizens United era. The Koch brothers are already famous for their spending, and the Mercers are now in the spotlight too. Tom Steyer is spending his money running ads urging the impeachment of President Trump. More and more billionaires are willing to fund their favored candidates almost without limit. That’s how we end up with this:

For more on this, check out the New York Times today, which has a lengthy piece about how the Paradise Papers reveal exactly how the ultra-rich use tax havens to avoid paying taxes. It’s bracing stuff.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate