The Panama papers.

By now most people have heard about the Panama papers. For those who have been living in a cave this week here is a summary; someone got into the private accounts of a firm called Mossack Fonseca and took 11.5 million files. It basically shows how the financial elite exploit a secretive system to move money around so that it cannot be taxed using shell companies offshore.

Of course one should be careful as the use of offshore companies is not illegal. What is illegal is not reporting the money to the tax man. At least in Canada, that is how it is. Unfortunately there is the suspicion that if you create an offshore company it is necessarily because you want to evade paying your taxes.

But despite this reminder, should we be surprised that the rich and famous want to evade taxes? We all knew surely that the 1% always played by different rules than the rest of us, the ordinary citizens who pay taxes. And if someone believed that the rich pay taxes like ordinary folks then surely they deserve to be fleeced by the tax man to the highest degree.

Already there has been fallout in the political arena; the Prime Minister of Iceland had to resign when he admitted that his wife had established a shell company in Panama. One would presume of course that it was for both of them. Even David Cameron of Great Britain had to admit that he profited from a fund established in Panama by his late father. He did specify that he sold it in 2010 before he entered politics. There is now a movement on Twitter that asks him to resign. He should. After all, it is quite immoral to profit from this even if one did not set it up. Especially as he himself has railed against these offshore havens.

It seems that the journalists who are poring over these documents have said that more names will come out. The more the better in my opinion. But one must remember that being named in these papers is not as if one is guilty of anything. I assume that the tax man in other democratic countries will be quite interested in those names and will thoroughly investigate them. That is a given. As for those people who live in countries that are not democratic like Saudi Arabia, they will simply continue to siphon off the wealth of their country. Nothing will change, except perhaps that this shaming will make them extra careful in the future.


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