Turns out Paradise is a club for the ultra-rich tax-dodging enthusiasts, and you're not invited, loser
The Paradise Papers are a collection of documents recently leaked that detail the vast amounts of wealth hidden in tax havens by the very richest to avoid paying the millions they owe the government in tax. I found out about the Paradise Papers from my flatmate, who exclaimed “oh my God, rich people are hiding trillions of pounds from us!” My response was “…and you’re surprised?”
If there’s anything three years of evolutionary biology has taught me, is that all organisms will behave in such a way that maximises their chances of procreating at the least cost of energy. Humans, meanwhile, have slightly reduced that requirement for procreation, and have pretty much substituted energy for money (but it’s still the same overall concept). A rich person that fulfils their tax obligations doesn’t stay as rich for long; they have “evolved” to take advantage of a particular niche, one we call a “tax haven”. Meanwhile, tax havens have evolved to better cater for the needs of rich people, creating a vicious cycle of wealth entrapment for the top 0.001%.
I found out about the Paradise Papers from my flatmate...my response was 'you're surprised?'
Enough armchair economics though, let’s move on to armchair politics. What can be done about this? Well, governments around the world could annex tax havens and split their proceeds accordingly, but that’s never going to happen. Besides the fact that international politics is still a quagmire of grudges, rich people also tend to be very powerful. Using under-the-table bribes or threats to pull economic investment, they have governments by the balls. The Conservatives promised to get rid of tax havens during elections, but they’ve been very quiet about them since finding half of their buddies use them. Electing an alternative government isn’t going to help much either, as they’ll still have that top 0.001% breathing down their necks, threatening to shut down jobs.
When 11.5 million documents were leaked in the Panama Papers scandal, you’d have thought the super-rich would have become sneakier in hiding their dodgy tax-evasion schemes. Yet, instead of covering their tracks better, or even deciding that actually, there’s a reason the Panama Papers were a scandal, a fresh wave of tax-dodging has been uncovered by the Panama Papers’ equally shitty sequel – the Paradise Papers. Props to whoever came up with the snazzy, alliterative names, but the aura of glamour can’t hide the ugly truth behind the papers. From Prince Charles to Lewis Hamilton, the hundreds of names listed have all been involved in shifty dealings that, however technically legal, are still morally wrong.
The aura of glamour can't hide the ugly truth behind the papers
In Britain, we’ve got 586,907 people needing emergency supplies from food banks, yet at the same time the Queens’ estate is investing £10m offshore. The disparity is astounding, and what we should be asking seems obvious: shouldn’t that money be circulating within Britain, helping citizens out, rather than just been used for the estate’s own gain? The fact that the Queen, our head of state, is implicated in the leak, is a wake-up call for all of us. We need to stop the rich getting richer whilst the rest of us flounder.
Yet it’s not just Britain that’s guilty. The Paradise Papers implicate people from all around the world. Tax evasion is not just a UK-only problem. It’s indicative of the pitfalls of capitalism. Now, I’m not here advocating for a total overhaul of the system, but surely there’s an issue when Dan Gertler, a billionaire accused of corruption, can be loaned $45m and asked to negotiate mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo? In any sane world, such a man would never be allowed near that amount of money, let alone given a job that apparently cost the DRC millions of dollars. We’re living in a world gone mad – and one that needs to change.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past fortnight, let me just provide some context. 13.4 million confidential documents pertaining to the offshore investment activity of the rich and powerful was leaked to the public on November 5.
The leak names everybody from Madonna to Prince Charles, Tory donor and non-dom Michael Ashcroft (no surprise there) to Bono. The Queen is even lumped in there. Furthermore, (and this is even less of a shock) it looks like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Disney, Uber, Nike and McDonald’s dodge the tax on a monstrous scale. Good luck avoiding supporting these guys.
Everything’s fucked, right? Whilst we strive to get by crushed under the weight of a debt to educate, a group of selfish people who the public deem ‘treasures’ do what they can to avoid supporting the society whose shoulders they’ve stood on to make it. Some of them aren’t even self-made. It’s selfish at its core, but here’s the rub: it’s totally legal.
We destroy the legal loopholes, force the selfish to pay the right amount
It all comes down to tax evasion and tax avoidance. Evasion, which is criminal, is where you illegally pay less tax than required. Avoidance is the legal way of doing this, which is where you stick your money in Bermuda, Guernsey or the Seychelles and the governments of these countries (who know exactly what they’re doing) welcome you with open arms and a bottle of Moet.
Yes, you can blame our royal highness and ask her to apologise. Tell Lewis Hamilton he’s a cock on Twitter for dodging VAT on his private jet (he is). But you’re missing the point. We destroy the law loopholes, we force the selfless to pay the right amount.
Divert your anger from the figureheads to the nefarious forces in the shadows enabling this activity. As tough as it may be under Conservative control, we need to lobby our politicians, expose the lawmakers and maybe we can sort this mess out.