Here is our best approximation of where the world’s tax havens are

November 22, 2013
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November 22, 2013

The OECD, which works to coordinate economic policy in the wealthiest countries, has released its rankings (pdf) of which countries are best and worst at exchanging information to prevent the abuse of their banking systems by tax-dodgers. We’ve turned the data into the map above, ranging from countries that lacked the basic infrastructure to even be rated to those that are largely compliant with the rules. (If a country isn’t marked, it’s either compliant or not part of the peer-review process.)

The map reflects both the changing pattern of illicit finance and the loose approach to global reform. You may be surprised to see that the Cayman Islands is largely compliant, given its reputation as a tax haven, but that reflects increasing pressure from the UK for the Caymans to clean up its act and start learning the real identities of the people using its banks. On the other hand, the Cayman Islands is a member of the steering committee that overseas the rating process, and the island of Jersey, another notorious tax haven, is the vice-chair of the peer review group.

The reddest faces in the rating game—besides the passel of small countries and Switzerland who couldn’t even muster up the basic requirements for rating—are Cyprus, Luxembourg, the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands, all of which were rated as non-compliant. You may remember that Cyprus got hung up with Russian tax avoidance during its bailout this year, while both the British Virgin Islands and the Seychelles have seen rapid growth in offshore companies as other jurisdictions have tightened lax rules. Luxembourg is probably the worst of the lot: It doesn’t require its banks to know the identity of account holders, can’t force banks to divulge them, and doesn’t exchange information with other countries. Austria and Turkey are the next rung up, only partially compliant: Neither country requires its banks to know who owns bank accounts.

You may also be surprised to see the United States, Germany and the UK making the list at only “largely compliant.” But the US still has trouble with asking banks to keep ownership and accounting records. You’ve heard of Delaware, right?

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