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US firms have US$1.4 trillion in tax havens: Oxfam

‘NEGATIVE EFFECT’:The World Bank president said tax evasion and illicit transfers of money through offshore tax havens undermine the fight against global poverty


US corporate giants such as Apple Inc and General Electric Co have stashed nearly US$1.4 trillion in dozens of offshore tax havens, denying the US and other governments needed tax income, Oxfam America said on Thursday.

A new report by the US arm of the global anti-poverty group Oxfam said that the funds amassed by 50 top US companies offshore between 2008 and 2014 demonstrate the extent to which tax havens allow firms to avoid taxes.

Between them the companies made use of more than 1,600 subsidiaries in tax havens to store and move money around outside the reach of fiscal authorities.

At the same time, the companies continue to benefit from government support in their home nations, with individual taxpayers bearing the cost.

The report came out less than two weeks after the publication of leaked documents from a Panamanian law office showed how it had created thousands of anonymous shell companies, many for wealthy and powerful public figures around the world, in nations where they can be used to avoid taxes.

“Multinational corporations that benefit from trillions in taxpayer-funded support are dodging billions in taxes,” Oxfam American president Raymond Offenheiser said in a statement. “The vast sums large companies stash in tax havens should be fighting poverty and rebuilding America’s infrastructure, not hidden offshore in Panama, [the] Bahamas or the Cayman Islands.”

The report counted up the huge profits that major companies have reported they are holding offshore, in part because of the high taxes they say they would have to pay for repatriating the profits to the US.

General Electric has US$119 billion, Microsoft Corp US$108 billion, Pfizer Inc US$74 billion and Alphabet Inc US$47 billion, for example.

“When corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes, governments — rich and poor — are forced to cut services or make up the shortfall from working families and small businesses. Neither is acceptable,” Offenheiser said.

The report was released on the opening day of the spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF, where the “Panama Papers” and the issue of tax havens were in focus.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said tax evasion and other illicit transfers of money through tax havens undermine the fight against global poverty.

“When taxes are evaded, when state assets are taken and put into these havens, all of these things can have a tremendous negative effect on our mission to end poverty and boost prosperity,” Kim said.

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