26 April 2016

So Not a Surprise

In all the commotion about the Panama Papers, we tend to ignore the fact that most of the dodgy finance that is used to hide wealth from the tax man occurs right here in the good old US of A, most notably in Wyoming and Delaware.

Well there is a an address in Delaware that is the "Headquarters" of the tax avoidance activities of Donald Trump, the Clintons, and 285,000 other shell corporations:
There aren’t many things upon which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree, especially as they court very different Delaware voters ahead of a primary on Tuesday. But the candidates for president share an affinity for the same nondescript two-storey office building in Wilmington. A building that has become famous for helping tens of thousands of companies avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in tax through the so-called “Delaware loophole”.

The receptionist at 1209 North Orange Street isn’t surprised that a journalist has turned up unannounced on a sunny weekday afternoon.

“You know I can’t speak to you,” she says. A yellow post-it note on her computer screen reads “MEDIA: Chuck Miller” with the phone number of the company’s director of corporate communications. Miller can’t answer many questions either, except to say that the company does not advise clients on their tax affairs.

The Guardian is not the first media organisation to turn up at the offices of Corporation Trust Centre, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

The term tax haven may evoke images of exotic locales, but Panama actually ranks as the 13th most attractive spot for hiding assets, while the US lies third.

This squat, yellow brick office building just north of Wilmington’s rundown downtown is the registered address of more than 285,000 companies. That’s more than any other known address in the world, and 15 times more than the 18,000 registered in Ugland House, a five-storey building in the Cayman Islands that Barack Obama called “either the biggest building in the world, or the biggest tax scam on record”.

Officially, 1209 North Orange is home to Apple, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Walmart and dozens of other companies in the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies. Being registered in Delaware lets companies take advantage of strict corporate secrecy rules, business-friendly courts and the “Delaware loophole”, which can allow companies to legally shift earnings from other states to Delaware, where they are not taxed on non-physical incomes generated outside of the state.


Both the leading candidates for president – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – have companies registered at 1209 North Orange, and have refused to explain why.

Clinton, who has repeatedly promised that as president she will crack down on “outrageous tax havens and loopholes that super-rich people across the world are exploiting in Panama and elsewhere”, collected more than $16m in public speaking fees and book royalties in 2014 through the doors of 1209, according to the Clintons’ tax return.
The routine corruption in the United States is mind buggering.


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