Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Is Gibraltar a tax haven?

Syria may rather have knocked Gibraltar off the front pages in the last week or so, but Spain is still rattling its sabres at the Rock. Its latest plan is to ban the bunkering of ships in the waters off Gibraltar (although you'd think this would be hampered by the fact that Spain has no jurisdiction over these waters). While the reasons for Spanish anger over Gibraltar are slightly complicated, clearly the recent economic success of Gibraltar is acting as a goad to Spanish pride - how can a tiny rock with no natural resources manage a GDP per head that is more than twice as high as Spain's?

Well, obviously, it's because it's a tax haven. Or at least that's what Spain says (and Simon Jenkins and Richard Murphy, obviously). But the OECD disagree - Gibraltar is on the white list of countries that have applied internationally recognised tax standards. Naturally, however, the slur of tax haven (or 'fiscal parasite' as the Spanish prefer it) is too good a one to drop merely because it's not true
"Here, a tax haven is a place that has a VAT of less than 21 percent, a marginal rate of income tax of less than 56 percent and a tax on companies that is less than 30 percent of their profits," says Paula Papp, an expert from International Financial Analysts.
If your definition of a tax haven stretches to include France, Denmark, Norway and Germany then its probably a touch too broad.

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