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Heavenly Tax Havens
Cato Institute ^ | February 26, 2008 | Daniel J. Mitchell

Posted on 02/26/2008 3:57:18 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks

The German government's purchase of data stolen from a Liechtenstein bank has reinvigorated longstanding debates about privacy, law enforcement and international relations. Much of the fallout has followed predictable patterns. Some argue that Germany's richest citizens should be brought to justice for failing to comply with the tax laws, while others point out that it is unseemly for a nation to spy on a peaceful neighbor.

The conflict between Germany and Liechtenstein also has triggered a broader debate about tax competition and the role of so-called tax havens. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is trying to use the imbroglio to resuscitate its initiative against tax competition. Willem Buiter, a professor at the London School of Economics, is using the issue to push an even more radical agenda: the forcible annexation -- by nations like Austria and France, under some unknown authority -- of jurisdictions such as Liechtenstein, Andorra and Monaco.

At best, these crusades against tax havens are misguided. At worst, they are an effort to create a tax cartel for the benefit of high-tax nations. This OPEC for politicians would mean higher tax rates for everyone and bigger government.

Wealthy tax evaders may not be sympathetic figures, especially to those of us who meekly comply with the law. But low-tax jurisdictions serve a valuable role in the world economy. Simply stated, they keep other governments honest. Globalization makes it easier for labor and capital to cross national borders, forcing governments to improve tax policy to keep the geese with the golden eggs from flying away.

Tax competition first became a big issue following the Thatcher and Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s. Responding to the increased attractiveness of the U.K. and U.S. economies, every single industrialized nation has been forced to lower personal tax rates in an effort to stay competitive. The average top tax rate in the developed world has dropped from more than 67% in 1980 to barely 40% today.

The same thing is happening to corporate tax rates. Back in 1980, corporate tax rates averaged nearly 50%. Today, led by Ireland's 12.5% corporate tax, the average corporate rate in the industrialized world is less than 27%. As the World Bank explained in its recent "Paying Taxes" report, these lower rates create incentives for more investment, which leads to faster growth, more jobs, higher incomes and what Berlin seems to be most concerned about: better compliance.

Perhaps most amazing, there is now a flat-tax revolution sweeping the globe. In 1980, there were just three flat-tax jurisdictions. Today, prompted by Estonia's 1994 reform, there are 25 governments with simple and fair flat-tax regimes.

All of these reforms have yielded big benefits -- particularly for the nations that have been the most aggressive tax cutters, notably Ireland, Estonia and Slovakia.

But tax rates are just part of the equation. In an ideal tax system, income also should be taxed just one time. This means no death tax, no wealth tax and no double taxation of interest, dividends or capital gains. Politicians often are tempted to impose extra layers of tax on saving and investment, both because they think such policies will give them more money to spend and because voters sometimes are sympathetic to class-warfare campaigns to "tax the rich." Yet the academic literature increasingly shows that excess taxation of capital income causes significant economic damage, largely because people have less incentive to set aside some of today's income to finance tomorrow's growth. High tax rates on saving and investment also cause inefficient tax-avoidance behavior.

Tax havens are particularly helpful since they encourage governments to reduce tax biases against saving and investment. From Sweden to Spain, politicians in Europe have been lowering tax rates on capital income. Death taxes have been killed. Wealth taxes have been abolished. And many nations have adopted lower tax rates for capital income.

Governments are improving their tax systems because they know that punitive tax burdens cause capital flight. In other words, they have finally realized that it is better to have modest tax rates and collect more tax revenue than it is to have confiscatory tax rates and collect less revenue.

But more important, the changes caused by tax competition and tax havens are good for ordinary people. The global economy today is much stronger than it was in the 1970s, in part because tax laws are much less hostile to work, saving and investment. This mean more jobs, higher income and greater prosperity. As Richard Teather of Bournemouth University noted, in a 2005 book published by London's Institute for Economic Affairs, "tax havens benefit us all, whether or not we personally invest through them."

Liechtenstein has a tax code that rewards productive behavior, and it is now the world's third-richest jurisdiction according to the World Bank. German tax laws, by contrast, are rated among the world's worst by the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. Liechtenstein has privacy laws that respect individual rights, but which also have received a green light from the Financial Action Task Force and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for being tough on dirty money. Perhaps most interesting, Liechtenstein scores highly on the World Bank's six governance indicators, beating out nations such as -- you guessed it -- Germany.

None of this should be surprising. Researchers have found that tax havens consistently rank as the best governed, most stable, fastest growing and most prosperous places in the world. Promoting better policy in other nations, though, may be their most important role. If Liechtenstein is forced to act as a deputy tax collector for other nations, the world's taxpayers will be the biggest losers.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Germany; Government; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: andorra; austria; capitalgains; corporatetaxes; dividends; estonia; europe; fairtax; flattax; france; germany; globalization; greatbritain; incometaxes; interest; ireland; liechtenstein; margaretthatcher; monaco; oecd; ronaldreagan; savings; slovakia; spain; sweden; taxavoidance; taxcartel; taxcompetition; taxcuts; taxes; taxevaders; taxevasion; taxhavens; uk; unitedstates; us; usa; worldbank
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Daniel J. Mitchell, formerly of the Heritage Foundation, now works at the Cato Institute.
1 posted on 02/26/2008 3:57:20 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Just invade...then it won’t be able to be such a pesky tax haven anymore.../sarc


2 posted on 02/26/2008 4:06:42 PM PST by stefanbatory
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Tax competition first became a big issue following the Thatcher and Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s. Responding to the increased attractiveness of the U.K. and U.S. economies, every single industrialized nation has been forced to lower personal tax rates in an effort to stay competitive.

One of the big reasons why leftists vilify Reagan and Thatcher.

3 posted on 02/26/2008 4:12:14 PM PST by Paleo Conservative
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To: Man50D
Liechtenstein has a tax code that rewards productive behavior

And the United States has a bill before congress that eliminates the income tax completely and creates a national sales tax. It would make the US the strongest tax haven in the world.

H.R 25

4 posted on 02/26/2008 4:17:45 PM PST by groanup (Don't let the bastards get you down.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Researchers have found that tax havens consistently rank as the best governed, most stable, fastest growing and most prosperous places in the world.

With the Fair Tax, the US would attract rivers of international investment capital. It would drive down interest rates, support the dollar and send the stock market soaring. Everyone, with the exception of democrat pols and their imagined victims wins.

5 posted on 02/26/2008 4:18:17 PM PST by Jacquerie (Give unto Caesar when you wish - Support the Fair Tax!)
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To: groanup; ancient_geezer; Taxman; Principled; EternalVigilance; phil_will1; kevkrom; n-tres-ted; ...
And the United States has a bill before congress that eliminates the income tax completely and creates a national sales tax.

The Fair Tax would be a tax haven compared to the income tax. No federal income taxes for individuals or corporations. Fair Tax ping!
6 posted on 02/26/2008 4:29:13 PM PST by Man50D (Fair Tax, you earn it, you keep it!)
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To: groanup

BTTT


7 posted on 02/26/2008 4:31:43 PM PST by OKSooner
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To: Man50D
With all of the evidence throughout the world that countries fare far better with little or no income taxes than countries that have them, it is long past time to reform our tax system.

I have been on many tax threads and anti FairTaxers make themselves heard loud and clear about all the "pitfalls" of a national retail sales tax. Sure there are pitfalls. But where are the tax reform ideas?

The only one that I know of that has gotten any traction with politicians and voters is the FairTax. If someone has a better idea they sure haven't done anything about it.

8 posted on 02/26/2008 5:21:10 PM PST by groanup (Don't let the bastards get you down.)
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To: groanup; All; Your Nightmare; Always Right; lewislynn; lucysmom; robertpaulsen; Filo; ...
"Perhaps most amazing, there is now a flat-tax revolution sweeping the globe. In 1980, there were just three flat-tax jurisdictions. Today, prompted by Estonia's 1994 reform, there are 25 governments with simple and fair flat-tax regimes."

Thanks for helping to promote the Flat Tax.

9 posted on 02/26/2008 5:31:30 PM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

The FairTax is a truly American innovation far superior to any of the various flat-income-tax schemes that are in turn superior to their graduated income tax cousins.

Americans need not follow others in their flat-income-tax success, they have a better system that is much closer to the original ideas of its founders, the FairTax.

http://www.fairtax.org


10 posted on 02/26/2008 5:32:19 PM PST by Hostage
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To: Hostage

Got proof?
Hard numbers?

oh... wait...


11 posted on 02/26/2008 5:43:35 PM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
A flat tax plus ... tax incentives to produce certain types of energy plus tax penalties for producing too much pollution plus tax incentives for implementing Health Security Accounts plus tax penalties for exporting jobs plus tax incentives for locating offices in Empowerment zones plus tax penalties for failing to abide by a federal mandate equals what we got now.

Tell me how we ever get to a flat tax and stay there without a constitutional amendment prohibiting tax incentives and tax penalties.

12 posted on 02/26/2008 5:51:20 PM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

“Perhaps most amazing, there is now a flat-tax revolution sweeping the globe.”

He must mean the part of the globe outside of North America because “the flat tax” (as if that term denoted a single proposal) sure isn’t sweeping the US. Politically, it’s on life support. If the flat taxers really wanted to get their proposal some traction, the first step would probably be to get the leaders like Dan Mitchell, Dick Armey and Steve Forbes together and let them determine the design of a specific plan that they could all get behind. And that proposal would not be a flat tax option, which I believe is what Mr. Forbes advocates.


13 posted on 02/26/2008 6:01:00 PM PST by phil_will1 (My posts are in no way limited or restricted by previously expressed SQL opinions)
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To: xcamel
Thanks for helping to promote the Flat Tax.

Well you certainly don't do anything to promote it. It would be a hell of a lot better than your current income tax scheme.

Do you favor a flat tax or a tariff?

Oh, what's the use. You already spent your wad on estate planning and, if the income tax disappeared tomorrow, you would have wasted your money. You have a vested interest in keeping the income tax so, never mind.

14 posted on 02/26/2008 6:05:22 PM PST by groanup (Don't let the bastards get you down.)
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To: groanup

You really love to live in the world of wild speculation, don’t you.


15 posted on 02/26/2008 6:08:20 PM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: phil_will1

People go with what works... that is unless your “fairtax people”


16 posted on 02/26/2008 6:09:48 PM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: xcamel; everyone
You really love to live in the world of wild speculation, don’t you.

Speculation? It was you, Mr. Dromedary, who made the outlandish claim that you (and your lawyers) engineered the largest tax free generational transfer of wealth in history. (At least that's what the lawyers told you as they handed you the bill).

In order to do that one must spend a substantial amount of money on design and trusts and so forth. It ain't cheap. Therefore you have a vested interest in keeping the income tax as it exists.

That's why you have never answered this question that I have asked you numerous times:

Do you favor maintaining the income tax and the IRS as they currently exist?

All: He's never answered that question although he comes on these threads as disruptor endlessly.

17 posted on 02/26/2008 6:17:15 PM PST by groanup (What do SQL's and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: groanup
You still favor the tax plan that creates the largest welfare entitlement in history?

You still feel the need to trade on personal information and denigrate others to feel better about yourself, when indeed you could learn something?

How’s your “best buds” TGA20 and b_babe doing? You keeping in touch?

18 posted on 02/26/2008 6:23:02 PM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: xcamel
You still favor the tax plan that creates the largest welfare entitlement in history?

Only an income tax preservationist could call returning someone's tax payment welfare and ignore the Marxist origins of the income tax.

You still feel the need to trade on personal information and denigrate others to feel better about yourself, when indeed you could learn something?

I have never traded in personal information and you know it. You, OTOH have attacked me and my profession and my clients in a very personal and base manner. You should have been banned from Free Republic.

How’s your “best buds” TGA20 and b_babe doing? You keeping in touch?

No.

It speaks volumes that you have ignored the substance of my previous post. Instead you make personal attacks. Typical, and not at all surprising.

19 posted on 02/26/2008 6:31:32 PM PST by groanup (What do SQL's and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: groanup
I think you better reread your own post, and rethink your answer. It’s obvious to everyone what you do and how you do it.

You attempt to denigrate everyone you disagree with as many, many would attest.

Worst of all, you attempt (unsuccessfully) to turn it around, acting all innocent, when everyone can see your version of “the emperor’s new clothes”

And when you post something with substance, naaah... not gonna happen.

20 posted on 02/26/2008 6:44:05 PM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: phil_will1

Is it any wonder that the FT is favored by politicians? With the prebates going out on a monthly basis, Americans will be under a monthly control rather than an annual one. No wonder.


21 posted on 02/26/2008 6:45:11 PM PST by CIDKauf (No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.)
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To: groanup
And the United States has a bill before congress that eliminates the income tax completely and creates a national sales tax.
Let me get this straight. This is an article about the Flat Tax doing so well in other countries and what you get out of that is we should implement a national sales tax!?! You FairTaxers are too funny.


It would make the US the strongest tax haven in the world.
Except for that part in the bill about withholding 23 percent of the income of foreign corporations...
22 posted on 02/26/2008 6:50:57 PM PST by Your Nightmare
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To: groanup

Regarding you tagline; what the heck does Structured Query Language (SQL) have to do with economic literacy? Outside of financial databases that is.


23 posted on 02/26/2008 6:51:52 PM PST by AFreeBird
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To: xcamel
I notice (along with everyone else) that you don't answer my post. You just ride along on top of the insult train and hope you don't get hit by the tunnel.
24 posted on 02/26/2008 6:58:30 PM PST by groanup (What do SQL's and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: CIDKauf
Is it any wonder that the FT is favored by politicians?

?????????????

Huh? I must have missed the newspaper the day that was announced. So far, "politicians" in general are ignoring it. An enlightened few are making at least a token effort to promote it. If "politicians" in general supported it, it would be law by now.

25 posted on 02/26/2008 7:00:13 PM PST by Cracker Jack (If it weren't for the democrats, republicans would be the worst thing in Washington.)
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To: Your Nightmare
Let me get this straight. This is an article about the Flat Tax doing so well in other countries and what you get out of that is we should implement a national sales tax!?! You FairTaxers are too funny.

Well you don't have it straight, as usual. This is an article about low income taxes being beneficial. Just imagine how beneficial NO income taxes would be. BTW, still waiting for your legislation.

Except for that part in the bill about withholding 23 percent of the income of foreign corporations...

From non-resident alien corporations. Are we gong to worry about them now?

26 posted on 02/26/2008 7:12:35 PM PST by groanup (What do SQL's and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: AFreeBird
Regarding you tagline; what the heck does Structured Query Language (SQL) have to do with economic literacy?

LOL. The acronym stands for Status Quo Lover as in income tax preservationists. Tag line corrected.

27 posted on 02/26/2008 7:16:11 PM PST by groanup (What do income tax preservationists and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: groanup

“Except for that part in the bill about withholding 23 percent of the income of foreign corporations...


From non-resident alien corporations. Are we gong to worry about them now ?”

If you want to create a tax haven, then you HAVE to worry about them. The whole point of a “Tax haven” is to attract foreign capital investment, so hitting them with a 23% tax blows that idea right out of the water. Why would they invest here when Ireland and other places would tax their investment profits at much lower levels ? This residual income tax is one of the many bizarre sections within HR25. It is directly contradictory to the claims of the proponents that the US would become a tax haven.


28 posted on 02/26/2008 7:20:31 PM PST by Kellis91789 (Liberals aren't atheists. They simply worship government.)
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To: groanup

Whew, thanks. I thought I was missing something.


29 posted on 02/26/2008 7:22:12 PM PST by AFreeBird
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To: groanup
From non-resident alien corporations. Are we gong to worry about them now?
And individuals. So no tax haven.
30 posted on 02/26/2008 7:37:14 PM PST by Your Nightmare
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To: Kellis91789

I could be wrong but that clause is specifically designed to prevent non resident status from earning income here and expatriating that income tax free. If not, then it should be addressed in the debate before congress.


31 posted on 02/26/2008 7:37:42 PM PST by groanup (What do income tax preservationists and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: Your Nightmare

Non resident alien individuals.


32 posted on 02/26/2008 7:39:15 PM PST by groanup (What do income tax preservationists and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: Man50D
The United States, as a matter of law, does not tax non-US Persons who have capital gains or gains on sales of real estate in the US. Further, the US will not report the interest income, nor the names of bank account holders who are not US Persons back to their national governments. All this has the effect of making the US a “tax haven” for everyone except US Persons. (it should be noted that US Persons are required to report and pay taxes on income from any source, even from one outside of the US and even if the taxpayer is no longer domiciled in the US).
33 posted on 02/26/2008 8:20:20 PM PST by theBuckwheat
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To: theBuckwheat

“The United States, as a matter of law, does not tax non-US Persons who have capital gains or gains on sales of real estate in the US. Further, the US will not report the interest income, nor the names of bank account holders who are not US Persons back to their national governments. All this has the effect of making the US a “tax haven” for everyone except US Persons. (it should be noted that US Persons are required to report and pay taxes on income from any source, even from one outside of the US and even if the taxpayer is no longer domiciled in the US).”

.....fascinating...absolutely fascinating...that OUR own government would treat a non-citizen preferentially to a taxpayer.......I think we need to strip DC of any such power and prerogative...


34 posted on 02/26/2008 8:26:01 PM PST by mo
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To: mo
This is how the US retains Wall Street as the prominent financial center of world commerce. It should be noted that the UK has a similar policy of not taxing non-residents who make gains on stocks held in UK broker accounts. The instant any country even hinted it would levy capital gains taxes on non-taxpayers, their capital would flee to some other tax-exempt jurisdiction.

The issue is tracked here in the US by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation, at www.freedomandprosperity.org

35 posted on 02/26/2008 8:50:51 PM PST by theBuckwheat
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To: Cracker Jack

very good point!!


36 posted on 02/26/2008 9:09:55 PM PST by CIDKauf (No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.)
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To: groanup
Why would you want to prevent them from taking their income home with them ? The whole point of being a tax haven is to attract the capital and get the benefit of that additional liquid capital working in your economy. It is NOT to create a source of revenue from those non-US residents. Attempting to collect taxes from non-US residents is exactly the opposite of being a tax haven.

This attitude of seeing people as tax revenue sources rather than productive elements of an economy is exactly what kills economies. Attempting to tax income of non-residents is no different than trying to prey upon the most productive 1% of our own citizens, where people blithely accept that 1% of the population shouldn't complain about paying 40% of the taxes. In both cases, it is democracy as tyranny — a majority voting to take something away from a minority that stands no chance of voting protection for itself. Remember: “democracy” was a curse word to the founding fathers, and it was our “republican” form of government that was supposed to protect the individual from the tyranny of the majority.

37 posted on 02/26/2008 11:08:40 PM PST by Kellis91789 (Liberals aren't atheists. They simply worship government.)
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To: theBuckwheat

tnx for the link ...


38 posted on 02/27/2008 4:05:39 AM PST by mo
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To: Kellis91789

“.....where people blithely accept that 1% of the population shouldn’t complain about paying 40% of the taxes”

IMO, thats how we’ve wound up with an oligarchy...and 25yrs of Bush/Clinton dynasty....That 1% owns the government..that the rest of the country sold to them...


39 posted on 02/27/2008 4:07:37 AM PST by mo
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To: xcamel
Perhaps most amazing, there is now a flat-tax revolution sweeping the globe. In 1980, there were just three flat-tax jurisdictions. Today, prompted by Estonia's 1994 reform, there are 25 governments with simple and fair flat-tax regimes." "Thanks for helping to promote the Flat Tax."

Gents,

Google Corporate Tax rates and find the list of countries. Now look at those with a Flat-Tax and you will also see their Corp. Tax rates are lower than ours as well. Many are the former Soviet "Stans" and even Poland may go from their 2 rate system like we had with Reagan in 88' to a Flat Tax.

Reagan would smile at the Flat-Tax Revolution going on, sad it isn't happening here....

40 posted on 02/27/2008 4:16:02 AM PST by taildragger (The Answer is Fred Thompson, I do not care what the question is.....)
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To: groanup
Non resident alien individuals.
I'm not sure you understand what a tax haven is. It's "a place to be used by non-residents to escape high taxes in their country of residence." So if the FairTax taxes the income of non-residents specifically, that pretty much precludes us from becoming a "tax haven."
41 posted on 02/27/2008 4:22:03 AM PST by Your Nightmare
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To: Your Nightmare
Just the fact that the whole article is a glowing endorsement of flat taxes speaks volumes about the FauxTax, and should be what is being discussed.
42 posted on 02/27/2008 4:27:08 AM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: Kellis91789
Attempting to collect taxes from non-US residents is exactly the opposite of being a tax haven.

No. A tax haven, in the traditional sense, is a place where not much more than a post office box allows you to earn money off of investments in that place. Investments are specifically exempt in the legislation.

43 posted on 02/27/2008 4:34:47 AM PST by groanup (What do income tax preservationists and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: Your Nightmare

See post #43.


44 posted on 02/27/2008 4:35:34 AM PST by groanup (What do income tax preservationists and economic literacy have in common? Nothing)
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To: xcamel
Got proof?
Hard numbers?

Better than that, they've got theories and economic studies unencumbered by pesky stuff like real world experience.

45 posted on 02/27/2008 5:01:46 AM PST by lucysmom
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To: xcamel

“Just the fact that the whole article is a glowing endorsement of flat taxes speaks volumes about the FauxTax, and should be what is being discussed.”

Does that mean that someone is going to answer this simple question: why don’t the flat taxers get together and decide on a specific proposal, get that plan into congress and start working to get people behind it? As long as the flat taxers just support “the flat tax” generically, it isn’t going anywhere.


46 posted on 02/27/2008 5:08:04 AM PST by phil_will1 (My posts are in no way limited or restricted by previously expressed SQL opinions)
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To: lucysmom

...and human nature...


47 posted on 02/27/2008 5:09:16 AM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: phil_will1

It’s happening already, the problem is the pitchfork and torch crowd shouting down anyone who dares to challenge the FT cult. When your movement burns out, the flat tax will win out.


48 posted on 02/27/2008 5:15:22 AM PST by xcamel (Two-hand-voting now in play - One on lever, other holding nose.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Liechtenstein has privacy laws that respect individual rights, but which also have received a green light from the Financial Action Task Force and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for being tough on dirty money. Perhaps most interesting, Liechtenstein scores highly on the World Bank's six governance indicators, beating out nations such as -- you guessed it -- Germany.

Liechtenstein is cooperative if criminal activity is suspected, however, tax evasion is not a crime in that country.

49 posted on 02/27/2008 5:49:48 AM PST by lucysmom
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To: xcamel
...and human nature...

The fly in the ointment of many a perfect plan.

50 posted on 02/27/2008 5:51:17 AM PST by lucysmom
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