Nick Shaxson ■ When a tax haven invokes the ‘level playing field’, run for the hills


Spotted in Luxembourg, or somewhere like it

From Canada’s Globe and Mail:

“The Minister of Finance for Luxembourg says his country – labelled by critics as a tax haven for multinational corporations – is committed to sweeping international tax reforms being pushed by the G20 and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, as long as they create a “level playing field.”

Which sounds so eminently reasonable. Indeed, who could oppose fairness? 

Now we can’t say for sure what the honourable Minister, Pierre Gramegna, had in his mind when he said that. But in general terms, we at TJN see these words ‘level playing field’, again and again, year after weary year. What this statement tends to mean, we’ve found, is this:

“we won’t do this until everyone else does this.”

The subtext, of course, is that you’ll never get everyone else to sign up. And that that the statement can usually be shortened to:

“We won’t do this.”

As we said, we don’t know exactly what Luxembourg has in mind here, and the evidence strongly suggests that now that Jean-Claude Juncker is no longer the boss there, genuine reforms might become easier.

But on long past experience, we simply don’t trust ’em to do the right thing.



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