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By Vinay D.S., Kwon B.S.

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For a customer, the main reason to deposit securities in a Swiss bank is and always has been for tax evasion. A taxpayer who lives in the United States must pay taxes on all his income and all his wealth, regardless of where his securities are deposited; but as long as Swiss banks don’t communicate comprehensive and truthful information to foreign governments, he can defraud tax authorities by reporting nothing on his tax return. 17 c h a pt e r O n e The First Threats to Berne At the end of World War II, wealth management in Switzerland went through a crisis.

I do not factor in the losses caused by these activities and focus only on those that come 50 T h e Missi n g W e a l th o f N a ti o n s out of the dissimulation of wealth, even though the two types of losses cannot be dissociated: the certainty of being able to hide the profits of their crime can only encourage criminals. From a practical point of view, there is unfortunately no way of knowing the origins of funds held offshore and, in particular, of isolating the proportion coming from illegal activities such as drug trafficking from that which comes from the fraud of ultra-­high net-­worth individuals.

Around 3% of the assets held in tax havens changes hands each year, and these large estates should on average be taxed at a rate of 32% (with important variations among countries, some having completely given up taxing inheritances). Thus there is the substantial loss of $55 billion per year. Some countries do have annual wealth taxes—­such as the solidarity tax on wealth in France—­and thus undergo a third loss (on the order of $10 billion). In total, due to tax havens, the loss to government coffers rises to $190 billion per year.

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