R40623 – Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion – 1/15/2015

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Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion

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Author: Jane G. Gravelle, Senior Specialist in Economic Policy

Pages: 55

Individuals can evade taxes on passive income, such as interest, dividends, and capital gains, by not reporting income earned abroad. In addition, because interest paid to foreign recipients is not taxed, individuals can evade taxes on U.S. source income by setting up shell corporations and trusts in foreign haven countries to channel funds into foreign jurisdictions. There is no general third-party reporting of income as is the case for ordinary passive income earned domestically; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) relies on qualified intermediaries (QIs). In the past, these institutions certified nationality without revealing the beneficial owners. Estimates of the cost of individual evasion have ranged from $40 billion to $70 billion. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA; included in the HIRE Act, P.L. 111-147) introduced required information reporting by foreign financial intermediaries and withholding of tax if information is not provided. These provisions became effective only recently, and their consequences are not yet known. Most provisions to address profit shifting by multinational firms would involve changing the tax law: repealing or limiting deferral, limiting the ability of the foreign tax credit to offset income, addressing check-the-box, or even formula apportionment. President Obama’s proposals include a proposal to disallow overall deductions and foreign tax credits for deferred income, along with a number of other restrictions. Changes in the law or anti-abuse provisions have also been introduced in broader tax reform proposals. Provisions to address individual evasion include increased information reporting and provisions to increase enforcement, such as shifting the burden of proof to the taxpayer, increased penalties, and increased resources. Individual tax evasion is the main target of the HIRE Act, the proposed Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, and some other proposals.