Daniel J. Mitchell

dmitchell@cato.org

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In Praise of Tax Havens

JUNE 10, 2009 by DANIEL J. MITCHELL

According to stereotypes, tax havens are little islands in the Caribbean, and indeed that's true of some of the world's premiere offshore centers. But to be more accurate, a tax haven is any jurisdiction that satisfies two criteria: First, its tax laws are attractive to global investors and entrepreneurs, and second, it protects its fiscal sovereignty by choosing not to enforce the bad tax laws of other nations, at least when they are trying to tax economic activity outside their borders. This means, of course, that individuals and businesses from high-tax nations have the option of using those jurisdictions as havens against excessive taxation.

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Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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