Always bearing in mind the more-than-semantic difference between "evasion" and "avoidance".
The “Panama Papers” didn’t come out of nowhere. Ever since ancient Rome imposed tax burdens on the wealthy, the wealthy have been trying to squirrel assets away from the reach of local law.
The more than 11 million emails, corporate records and financial spreadsheets leaked this week are a reminder that prominent politicians, executives and celebrities regularly hide their wealth in tax havens scattered around the world from the British Virgin Islands to Luxembourg and the Seychelles.
By some estimates, at least $20 trillion in financial assets — not counting art, real estate, precious metals and other physical wealth — is invested in the dozens of countries that offer secrecy and tax avoidance to anyone with a bank account.
Around the time of Bastille Day in 1789, Swiss banks were already offering confidentiality — for a fee — to nobles seeking to shelter their assets from the ravages of the French Revolution.
Monaco became a haven after its Monte Carlo casino generated so much cash that Prince Charles III was able to abolish all income tax in 1869. Liechtenstein has had a reputation as a tax haven since at least 1926, Luxembourg since 1929 and Bermuda since the 1930s, says Ronen Palan, a professor of international politics at City University London in the U.K., who studies offshore finance.
In 1934, it became a crime for bank executives in Switzerland to disclose a customer’s identity. At first, other countries viewed that as heretical, with some threatening to imprison any of their own citizens who held a Swiss bank account. But assets of the wealthy flocked to Switzerland, soon setting off a “race to the bottom,” with such other venues as Liechtenstein and Uruguay offering their own assurances of secrecy....MORE