Hunting for treasure islands: Recent developments of hidden wealth and its allocation

Håkon Rysst Heilmann, OFS Scholarship Recipient 2015


In the recent years, a new battle against tax havens has emerged. After decades with inefficient efforts, the number of tax information treaties signed with tax havens suddenly skyrocketed after the financial crisis of 2007-08. This thesis investigates how this may have affected the global hidden wealth and the use of tax havens. By applying modern methods of estimation, both the total amount of unrecorded assets and its allocation through the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 is calculated. By adding these estimates to an existing set covering 2001-2008, the developments in the use of tax havens are investigated throughout a crucial period of time. The analysis shows indications of a decline in the relative amount of global hidden wealth, as well as some significant changes in its allocation. While the three largest havens, Ireland, Luxembourg and Cayman Islands, appear little affected by the last years developments, OECD-countries typically not known as tax havens suffer a significant decline in their hosting of unrecorded assets. In contrast, the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the most outspoken opponents of tax haven practices, seem to experience an increase, while the effect on unrecorded asset holdings in tax havens is more ambiguous. Further analysis on the causal effects of tax treaties imply that tax havens may benefit of a shift towards more legal, financial activity, as tax treaties appear to have a significant, positive effect on total recorded asset holdings in treaty-signing havens.

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Published Feb. 20, 2015 11:02 AM - Last modified Sep. 17, 2015 10:35 AM