In addition to top-flight international banks such as Barclays, Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas, other elite Appleby clients have included the founder of one of the Middle East’s largest construction conglomerates, the Saad Group, and the Japanese company operating the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
The files reveal that America’s most profitable company, Apple Inc., shopped around Europe and the Caribbean for a new island tax shelter after a U.S. Senate inquiry found that the tech giant had avoided tens of billions of dollars in taxes by shifting profits into Irish subsidiaries.
In one email exchange, Apple’s lawyers asked Appleby to confirm that a possible move to one of six offshore tax havens would allow an Irish subsidiary to “conduct management activities . . . without being subject to taxation in these jurisdictions.” Apple declined to comment on details of the corporate reorganization but told ICIJ that it explained the new arrangements to government authorities and that the changes did not reduce its tax payments.
The files also reveal how big corporations cut their taxes by creating offshore shell companies to hold intangible assets such as the design of Nike’s “Swoosh” logo and the creative rights to silicone breast implants.
One of Appleby’s top corporate clients was Glencore PLC, the world’s largest commodity trader. The files contain decades of deals, emails and multimillion-dollar loans to bankroll ventures in Russia, Latin America, Africa and Australia.
The Panama Papers were conspicuously short on details of US citizens and corporations. The New Paradise Papers are loaded with details of the dealings, all legal, of major US corporations, politicians as well as the Queen of England.
These revelations are embarrassing for those involved because they highlight actions the actors would prefer to keep under wraps. However, the damage, particularly for politicians is likely to be reputational while the shares of the companies mentioned in the above reports were little affected in today’s trading.
Tax havens exist because international trade is complicated and there is a significant benefit to being tax competitive. As long as that remains the case, companies and individuals with the means necessary, will pursue competitive tax strategies. That is exactly why the current US administration is trying to amend its international and corporate tax structure to be more competitive.
What is less appreciated is that the USA is a tax haven in its own right, and among the most attractive for US interests, according to Rothschild, which set up in Nevada a couple of years ago. The imposition of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) means that domiciling assets overseas is less attractive so states like Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nevada benefitted because of their low reporting requirements and in Nevada’s case at least stockholders are not public record. (In the interests of full disclosure, I am a director of Nevada Trust Company).