Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NPR: Tax havens come clean ahead of G-20

Ahead of the G-20 summit, the British government is trumpeting a crackdown on tax evaders from certain countries. But some of the biggest tax havens may be found in the countries doing the whining. Stephen Beard reports.
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Kai Ryssdal: President Obama landed in London this evening. He's there for a big economic summit that starts Thursday. Leaders of the world's top twenty economies are going to try to figure out how to stop the global slowdown. They'll talk about stimulus packages and tighter regulations. It's not clear what actually might come out of it.
But the Brits have already declared one G-20 breakthrough: a crackdown on tax havens. So, what does that have to do with an economic crisis? From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard explains.
STEPHEN BEARD: Ten tax havens have apparently agreed to come clean. Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Monaco among them. They say they will share information about suspected tax evaders. The deal has been more than a decade in the making. But clinching it now could be a godsend for the U.S. and other big governments. Especially now. Tax revenues are shrinking; stimulus spending has taken off. Grace Perez-Navarro of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development:
GRACE PEREZ-NAVARRO: In the midst of a crisis it's very difficult to raise tax rates. So what can governments do? All they can try and do is make sure they collect every penny that is legally due. And this is part of that initiative.
But not everyone is impressed by the tax-haven breakthrough. Stephen Platt is a lawyer who prosecutes financial crime in offshore centers. He says the U.S., for one, should take a closer look in its own backyard.
STEPHEN PLATT: There are several states within the United States itself that have very, very lax controls, that attract very shady business.
Nevada, Wyoming and Delaware, he says, allow the kind of secrecy in which tax evasion flourishes. The kind of secrecy the U.S. denounces in the tax havens.
PLATT: This, I think, reveals a hypocrisy.
He says in some respects Britain is just as lax as America. And he claims Britain is bragging about the tax-haven breakthrough to distract attention from the regulatory failures in Britain and the U.S. that really caused the crisis.
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gary Shapiro: Obama's Panama Opportunity

President Barack Obama will soon be making his first trip to Latin America to attend the Summit of the Americas. This visit is an important opportunity for the President to promote core U.S. values of democracy and freedom. Before his historic trip, President Obama should lay the foundation of these principles by signaling that his Administration will seek quick passage of pending trade agreements with Panama and Colombia that have long stalled in Congress and whose future is uncertain.
Passage of these agreements would immediately strengthen the relationship with these important allies and signal positive U.S. economic engagement in this vital region. Our economy needs exports. Over 95 percent of the world's population lives outside of the United States. We must look beyond our borders to increase market access for U.S. businesses to grow and create American jobs. The Panama and Colombia free trade agreements (FTAs) will help level the playing field for U.S. exports of goods and services. In fact, today some 5,600 American businesses export to Panama. Over 4,000 of these are small or medium-sized companies. Passage of the Panama agreement will empower these companies to expand their market opportunities and in doing so boost U.S. exports - one of the few bright spots in the economy. President Obama should call on Congress to pass the U.S.-Panama FTA without further and needless delay. These FTAs would not only eliminate tariffs, boost U.S. exports and increase economic engagement, but they also would also solidify America's presence in Latin America, a key strategic region.
Too often we forget that this region has been historically unstable. Today, we battle for the hearts and minds of the Continent against Hugo Chavez and his allies. Now more than ever, the United States must assist our Latin American friends and pass these pending trade agreements. With U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in office, we should quickly advance the U.S. trade policy agenda. While labor unions have slowed action on the Colombian agreement, there is no reason to delay the Panama FTA.
We face a pivotal decision: Does the United States promote policies that lead to domestic job creation, or do we pursue a protectionist agenda that sets an example of our Latin American allies that shuns the economic freedoms we have long sought? Plus with Panama, we have another strong reason to move quickly: Panama is soon accepting bids for Latin America's largest public works project - a multi-billion dollar modernization of the Panama Canal. The Panama FTA gives US companies an equal shot in this huge project.The Panama FTA should pass before the President's trip, but he can and should signal that he also wants action on the Colombia FTA.
Given the Congressional move to protectionism on "Buy American" in the stimulus package and the treaty violating restriction on Mexican trucks in to the United States, President Obama needs something soon to calm the world that we are not closing our borders from the world. Passage of relatively non-controversial FTAs with our pro-democracy friends in is an obvious answer. If President Obama is serious about promoting our exports, if he is serious about tackling the ills of our economy, if he is serious about strengthening our friendships in Latin America, he must endorse the pending U.S. free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia and seek swift Congressional approval in Congress.

Posted March 20, 2009 12:20 PM (EST)
Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

As 3 Cabinet nominees have withdrawn from their nominations because of tax problems and "honest mistakes", Senator Levin introduced S.506 - the 2nd version of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act (previously the 2007 Obama-Levin bill S.681). The bill targets Panama and other countries as offshore secrecy jurisdictions:

(b) Definition of Offshore Secrecy Jurisdiction- Section 7701(a) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
`(A) IN GENERAL- The term `offshore secrecy jurisdiction' means any foreign jurisdiction which is listed by the Secretary as an offshore secrecy jurisdiction for purposes of this title....
`(E) INITIAL LIST OF OFFSHORE SECRECY JURISDICTIONS- For purposes of this paragraph, each of the following foreign jurisdictions, which have been previously and publicly identified by the Internal Revenue Service as secrecy jurisdictions in Federal court proceedings, shall be deemed listed by the Secretary as an offshore secrecy jurisdiction unless delisted by the Secretary under subparagraph (F)(ii):
`(viii) British Virgin Islands.
`(xi) Costa Rica.
`(xii) Cyprus.
`(xvii) Hong Kong.
`(xviii) Isle of Man.
`(xix) Jersey.
`(xx) Latvia.
`(xxi) Liechtenstein.
`(xxii) Luxembourg.
`(xxvi) Panama
The Center for Freedom and Prosperity has pointed out that these initiatives only put US business at a disadavantage when they export overseas, because companies from other countries will use the advantage that tax havens provide them, thereby increasing the number of US jobs lost http://www.freedomandprosperity.org/dorgan-levin-facts/dorgan-levin-facts.shtml .

In advance of Wednesday's Senate hearing on Tax Haven Banks and U. S. Tax Compliance -- Obtaining the Names of U.S. Clients with Swiss Accounts, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) yesterday introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act:
Text of Bill
Summary of Bill
Sen. Levin Press Release
Sen. Levin Statement (Part 1, Part 2)
Talking Points Memo

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More changes to Immigration Regulations

Five months after having entered into force the new Immigration Decree regulations of Executive Decree 320 of 2008, the government amended several of its articles, reported Tayra Barsallo, deputy director of the National Immigration Service. For example, it eased the requirements for visas for seafarers, extended the term of visas for temporary workers, and reduced the cost of extending visa for domestic workers, among others. The changes in Executive Decree 26 0f 2009 were published in the Official Gazette No. 26,238, yesterday Wednesday.

See also New Regulations for Immigration Law are enacted