By Trent Gow
The recent leak from a Bermuda law firm of over 13 million records detailing the secret off-shore investments of wealthy individuals, families and corporations from around the world has been given the name Paradise Papers by international media. More than 3,000 Canadians were caught up in this net, including three former Prime Ministers. Like the Panama Papers before it, this disclosure shines a bright disinfecting light on the dark corners where the super wealthy stash their cash and avoid taxes. The public revelations have forced many progressive countries to begin to fundamentally alter how they look at, and regulate, tax affairs. Hopefully our federal government will continue to expand and accelerate the aggressive action it commenced after the Panama Papers hit the transparency fan.
Since the 1980's deregulation and globalisation have combined to swell the ranks of the super-rich. Not coincidentally, over that same thirty year time period, there has been an explosion in no-tax, high-secrecy locations. The Paradise and Panama papers are just the tip of an iceberg. Tax havens have facilitated the rise in global inequality. If it feels like there is one set of rules for the rich and another for the poor, it is because there is.
As an astute observer once said, taxes are the price we pay for civilisation. Voters tax themselves, among other things, for schools, roads and healthcare; for welfare, defence and diplomacy. When a privileged group at the top of society essentially secedes and forms a globally mobile republic, able to choose which jurisdiction they wish to operate under, the public is right to ask why we allow this to happen. Why should taxes just be for the little people?