Despite the world’s specialist IFCs demonstrating high levels of regulation, compliance and transparency, their role in international finance is constantly challenged by false narratives and distorted beliefs.
However, the narrative of the ‘clean’ onshore jurisdiction versus the ‘dirty’ offshore jurisdiction is one that is becoming increasingly untenable to support. Through analysis by key practitioners, trade specialists and economists, we consider the disparity between perception and reality in offshore finance and contemplate the future of offshore in an increasingly regulated world.
As far back as 2017, Oxfam published “Blacklist or Whitewash - what a real EU Blacklist of tax havens should look like” if the “EU were to objectively apply its own criteria and not bow to political pressure…and reveals four EU countries (Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands) that would be blacklisted if the EU were to apply its own criteria to member states.”
Oxfam easily exposed the EU’s blacklist as farcical, then played very nicely into the prevailing narrative that tropical islands are the world’s worst tax havens by headlining its report with the image above, despite reporting that “Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and Cyprus are among the world’s worst corporate tax havens”, and “at least four (EU member states) should feature on the EU blacklist if screened against the EU’s own criteria: Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands”.
Furthermore, of the 39 countries Oxfam found should feature on the EU blacklist if the EU applied its methodology objectively and universally, the majority are NOT TROPICAL ISLANDS: Albania, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Gibraltar, Greenland, Guam, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jersey, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Oman, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UAE.
In a globalised world, cross-border finance and investment, routed via 'Offshore', has generated tremendous press coverage over the last two decades.
Nevertheless, what is Offshore? What are its origins? Moreover, given the controversial nature of some of the commentary, how might Offshore reimagine itself over the coming decades?
The name Offshore is problematic, as there needs to be a clear and accepted definition. The IMF attempted this in their Monetary and Exchange Affairs Department paper dated 23 June, 2000:
"Offshore finance is, at its simplest, the provision of financial services by banks and other agents to non-residents. These services include the borrowing of money from non-residents and lending to non-residents."