The rich use offshore tax havens when they live near Switzerland, are from a country stocked with natural resources, or from one wracked with political and economic instability, according to a new study from researchers looking at income inequality, reports MarketWatch.
The United Arab Emirates heads the list of offshore wealth havens as a proportion of GDP, followed by Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Argentina, Greece, Taiwan, Portugal, Turkey, and then many Western European countries.
The researchers—Annette Alstadsaeter of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Niels Johannesen of the University of Copenhagen and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley—relied on new data from the Bank for International Settlements on the amount of bilateral bank deposits held outside that country. They also backchecked their findings with data leaked from HSBC Switzerland, and they found it remarkably similar to the distribution estimated for the entire Swiss banking industry.
What’s also interesting is that high tax rates aren’t really a driver—Denmark and Norway, for instance, are very low on the offshore wealth-to-GDP list.
In a separate paper from the three authors, they found that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth. On average, about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to close to 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution. Again, they relied on data from the HSBC Switzerland leak, as well as the so-called Panama Papers, the leaks that came from the law firm Mossack Fonseca.
They then combined that with random audits and population-wide administrative income and wealth records in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Both papers were circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research and haven’t been peer reviewed.