The U.S. as Tax Haven? Aiding Developing Countries by Revoking the Revenue Rule

Brunson, Samuel D.

Over the years, many OECD countries, including the United States, have identified tax havens as a significant problem, and have acted to limit the ability of their taxpayers to use tax havens to reduce their taxes. The United States has implemented tax regimes, including subpart F and the passive foreign investment company rules, and disclosure regimes, such as the recently-enacted FATCA rules, to prevent U.S. taxpayers from taking advantage of tax haven jurisdictions.

But the intersection of a number of U.S. tax rules, it turns out, makes the United States an attractive place for foreigners to invest—and hide—their money. Principal among these is the revenue rule, an eighteenth-century common law rule that prevents the United States from recognizing and enforcing foreign tax judgments. As a result, if a foreign taxpayer hides money in the United States and fails to pay taxes at home, her government has no recourse to satisfy the tax debt with the taxpayer’s U.S. assets. Such hidden money disparately impacts developing countries by reducing their ability to finance government through developing tax infrastructure, and instead forcing them to remain dependent on foreign aid.

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Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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September 29, 2015