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High-taxing European treasuries face grave problems as they try to finance redistributive welfare states having low birth rates and declining labour tax bases in an age of globalising investment. Their problem is not much different to the problem faced by the Roman Emperors (though Constantine humanely disclaimed the previous use of the scourge and the rack and contented himself with incarceration of insolvent taxpayers). In those days wealth was buried as gold in the grounds of the villa; in our day it may be buried in overseas parent or subsidiary companies. The reality remains that capital and business income can be made less visible to the tax collector than landed property. The solution of the late Roman Empire was to visit corporal punishment on the taxpayer. The solution now being urged by the OECD in Paris is that small or developing countries with offshore financial centres be pressed into service as subsidiary tax enforcers to boost OECD coffers. The OECD approach is multifarious, involving the criminalisation of tax avoidance and the elimination of various forms of tax competition from these centres in all geographically mobile service industries, including financial, but also distribution services, shipping, service industries and company headquartering. The OECD initiative is already drafting similar action on competition in e-commerce, with manufacturing industry having been flagged in the 1998 OECD report. © 2002, MCB UP Limited

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Financial Crime

Publication Date





330 - 340