Sole 24 Ore English Edition
Do you want to buy a company in a tax haven? Just pay 999 euros and you will have one in a few minutes, complete with a resident agent, notary, yearly tax, asset tax, general notary proxy and bearer share. If you also need to issue invoices, well, that is easy too. By paying an additional 999 euros, you will be the owner of a company in an offshore fiscal paradise—not included in the Italian blacklist. All you need to do is choose the location of your empty box: Panama, Bermuda, Cayman, Jersey, Antigua, Barbuda or one of dozens of other places with exotic and soothing names. It is a true tax evasion supermarket under the sun, which, with a few mouse clicks, can let you enter a world that you did not even know existed.
It’s Low Cost Time!
Some companies that focus on low cost offers—“Always low prices!” just like Walmart—while others aim at a more sophisticated target, more like business class, and offer packages with the slogan “Be smart: go offshore.” Each one advertises its product and praises the qualities thereof as if it were a detergent or a new car. It is hard to establish the border between serious offers and scams, as it is difficult to understand whether, behind the flamboyant wording and the kitschy images of chests full of coins, gold-plated eggs, piles of banknotes and smiling faces of profesionals in blue suits and ties, there really are actual organizations able to implement what they promise—namely, hiding your wealth from tax authorities. The dozens of Web sites on fiscal havens are a sign that the industry of offshore tax evasion is thriving—and then some. They also say something even more important: fiscal paradises are now affordable to (almost) all pockets. It is enough to read a few lines from “How to Use an Offshore Company to Pay Less or No Taxes” to realize it. The booklet—downloadable from www.paradisifiscali.org—is an interesting and edifying read.
The Offshore Guru
The author is Giovanni Caporaso, who identifies himself on his résumé as a lawyer, founder and president of OPM Corporation and head of the Caporaso & Partners law office. In Panama, Caporaso has set up a small consulting empire, and every year he goes to Lugano, Switzerland, to teach sold-out courses. Here is how Caporaso’s reasoning goes: “Mistakenly, people think that tax havens are reserved only for big financiers, corrupt politicians, members of the jet-set and multimillionaires. In fact, any professional with a 30,000- to 40,000-euro annual income can obtain great advantages by using them. Hence, after mass tourism comes the “All-Inclusive evasion,” a phenomenon no longer limited to a few billion-dollar men, but rather accessible to small-time accountants. We could joke about it, yet the reality seems to be exactly this. The Caporaso guide is a true goldmine of suggestions for the aspiring tax evader and ends with a list of 11 points containing the tricks to avoid the traps of fiscal controls. For example: “In order to protect anonymity you should not directly (or personally) conduct any operation that could be traced back to you.” Or: “Never transfer money from your offshore company to your onshore one, nor on your personal account. If you have high spending habits, use foreign credit cards.” But the most original rule is found at the Decalogue’s point number eight: “Erase periodically (meaning every day, because the day you don’t could be the fatal one) the compromising files from your computer.” It is followed by a practical step-by-step explanation on how to do it: “Go to Tools>System resources>Clean disk.” This the only safe, manual way to do it: it takes a little time, but it is indeed safe.” In short, a little daily sacrifice will let you sleep at night, because, as Caporaso warns: “Remember: do not do this tomorrow, as it could be a day too late!”
The Artists of Elusion
But the distillate of tips for aspiring tax evaders and eluders does not end here. It is worth continuing to read because the booklet clearly describes the systems Italian prosecutors and financial police officers fight daily with their investigations. Caporaso points out that “internationally speaking, fiscal engineers are born,” meaning the “artists of elusion.” Large groups and large evaders, writes the “Italian Offshore Guru,” as he likes to call himself, use nonattackable schemes, protected by myriad foreign companies, subsidiaries and branches that are normally in the red and produce black funds through anonymous companies. Thus the tax agency’s controls can be bypassed with a complex international company structure. “It is important to keep in mind,” Caporaso suggests, “that when the revenue exits the national borders, the problem of fiscal control becomes much more complicated.” That is why the golden rule is: the further your structure is from your regular or fiscal residence, the better. Even though sometimes it seems complicated to keep a structure going in a faraway country, a bank account in another and e-commerce in yet another one, you will realize that it is easier for you to manage it all than for authorities to control it.” Then, there is a final gem: “In the case of controls, apply the rule of the three Ds: deny, deny and deny!”
At the offshore supermarket there is no shortage of special offers and, more often than not, they resemble those of a bricks-and-mortar discount store. The offshore company Quick Corporation from Bristol, England, boasts the fastest and most inexpensive offers: 11 offshore jurisdictions with packages that range from 399 euros for a company in Belize to 1,999 for one in Hong Kong. For each tax haven, three packages are available: Gold, Platinum and Diamond. The turnaround time for a company incorporation ranges from one day in Belize, Panama or Delaware to two weeks in no-longer-attractive Cyprus. Price lists are detailed and for every additional service there is a fee. On the Web site of the Swiss fiduciary BSD, the cost for a company on the Seychelles Islands is 1,790 euros. The price includes the initiation tax, the legal headquarters of the company (usually a postal address) the supply of a resident agent and of a BSD manager that will available for a year. Additional services are minutely specified: a virtual standard office in Geneva, 900 euros; creation of the company logo, business card and letterhead, 750 euros; company seal, 590 euros; rubber seal, 20 euros less. The Web site Goccp, which advertises its products in Russian and boasts that it has been online since 1999, offers an all-inclusive package for $840. The site specializes in Caribbean tax havens (Nevis, Anguilla, Belize and Panama). The company’s legal makeup also comes in two different models: LLC (limited liability company) or IBC (international business company). For those who need to show a long history behind their empty box, the site offers the opportunity to buy what it calls “vintage companies,” with the assurance that they have never before been used. For $2,350, for instance, one can purchase the “Mediterranean Import-Export Limited,” founded in October 2008. The “Courtesy Transportation Management” is a slightly more expensive empty box—$2,865—because it was established a year earlier, in June 2007.
Foundations and Bank Accounts
On the shelves of this enormous virtual supermarket there are not only anonymous companies. Instead of the usual LLCs or IBCs, one can opt for a trust in Jersey or for a foundation of private interest in Panama—an entity that features a few advantages: it cannot have commercial goals nor partners but it can own stocks of one or more anonymous companies and distribute nontaxable dividends among the beneficiaries of the foundation. The price? 1,998 euros. After having chosen a tax haven, one can go on to open a bank account. Also, in this case, the offer is broad. On the Web site Sterlingoffshore.com, complete packages are for sale: a company in the British Virgin Islands and a bank account in the Seychelles Islands, or on Mauritius or in another fiscal paradise, at the price of only $1,875. The important thing is that the company’s bank account should not domiciled in the same tax haven. For 275 euros the Web site www.paradisifiscali.org offers a rechargeable credit card not linked to the company’s account. “If you want a card with another name on it,” the site candidly states, “we can provide a dummy”—for an extra 300 euros.
Entrance to paradise is never free!