We are well aware of the rise of the 1% percent as the rapid growth of economic inequality has put the majority of the world's wealth in the pockets of fewer and fewer. One much-discussed solution to this imbalance is to significantly increase the rate at which we tax the wealthy. But with an enormous amount of the world's wealth hidden in tax havens - in countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands - this wealth cannot be fully accounted for and taxed fairly. No one, from economists to bankers to politicians, has been able to quantify exactly how much of the world's assets are currently hidden - until now. Gabriel Zucman is the first economist to offer reliable insight into the actual extent of the world's money held in tax havens. And it's staggering.
In The Hidden Wealth of Nations, Zucman offers an inventive and sophisticated approach to quantifying how big the problem is, how tax havens work and are organized, and how we can begin to approach a solution. His research reveals that tax havens are a quickly growing danger to the world economy.
In the past five years, the amount of wealth in tax havens has increased over 25 percent - there has never been as much money held offshore as there is today. This hidden wealth accounts for at least $7.6 trillion, equivalent to 8 percent of the global financial assets of households. Fighting the notion that any attempts to vanquish tax havens are futile, since some countries will always offer more advantageous tax rates than others, as well the counterargument that since the financial crisis tax havens have disappeared, Zucman shows how both sides are actually very wrong.
In The Hidden Wealth of Nations, he offers an ambitious agenda for reform, focused on ways in which countries can change the incentives of tax havens. Only by first understanding the enormity of the secret wealth can we begin to estimate the kinds of actions that would force tax havens to give up their practices.
"Zucman seems to have little ambivalence about how to interpret the data, as his book is subtitled The Scourge of Tax Havens. He acknowledges that some view tax havens as perfectly legal and legitimate. But whatever the politics, for anyone who cares about understanding the economy, it's clear a dramatic shift is under way." (The Wall Street Journal)
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