With the recent release of millions of secret documents from a Panama law firm that helps corporations and wealthy individuals reduce their tax liability, the spotlight is trained anew on tax avoidance. Companies with offshore outposts typically argue that those subsidiaries serve a legitimate business purpose. But now, on the heels of the global Panama Papers scandal, anew report suggests that in many cases the primary goal must be tax avoidance.
According to a review of the most recent IRS data by the watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice, American corporations in 2012 housed more than a half-trillion dollars’ worth of profits in just 10 small nations. The group said the smoking-gun proof that the schemes are about tax avoidance comes from Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and Luxembourg, where the profits reported by U.S. corporations were larger than the entire reported gross domestic product of those countries.
“It is obviously impossible for American corporations to earn profits in a given country that exceed that country’s total output of goods and services,” the report concluded. “Clearly, American corporations are using various tax gimmicks to shift profits earned in the U.S. and other countries where they do the bulk of their business into their subsidiaries in these tiny countries that impose little or no tax on corporate profits.”