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Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  607 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
A thrilling ride inside the world of tax havens and corporate masterminds

While the United States experiences recession and economic stagnation and European countries face bankruptcy, experts struggle to make sense of the crisis. Nicholas Shaxson, a former correspondent for the Financial Times and The Economist, argues that tax havens are a central cause of all these disast
ebook, 272 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 6th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,587)
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Zach Cohen
Apr 23, 2011 Zach Cohen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before I get into my review, I wanted to point out that for someone without a lot of financial knowledge, this could be a very difficult book to read. I have a college degree in accounting, did some graduate work in tax, and worked for one of the big four accounting firms for a year in their international tax consulting department. I quit working for them and left the field entirely after I realized in vague generalities what they were doing, which was one of the reasons I was so interested in t ...more
Apr 28, 2011 Nathan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, business
Sometimes fascinating insight into the history of tax shelters, ruined in my eyes by the author's style which that of an incensed early 1980s Greenpeace leaflet writer. By the nature of tax shelters, you're going to have multinational corporations as villains so, unless you *want* to come off sounding like a stereotyped leftie loon, you had better get that tone and voice just right. Shaxson has not.

My favourite story was that of the wealthy British Vestey family with Argentinian meat interests.
Tax heavens, the missing piece of every book that has dealt with the 2008 financial crash, or least those that i have read so far. It gives a clear answers why a poor countries remain poor and it makes the current European bail out sums seems like a pocket money when compared to trillions of dollars/euros that have gone through the tax heavens and disappeared to somewhere in pockets of the plutocrats and their like.

Easy to read and understand even to a simpleton like me, Shaxson writing is good
Feb 02, 2014 Heikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book (actually its Finnish translation) at a book fair, because it seemed to handle tax evasion and planning, as well as tax havens and offshoring, which have been of interest to me for a while.

It did. I had three questions I hoped it would answer: what are tax havens, what is the effect of offshoring, and how can we start to rectify the appalling financial problems in the world. I am also happy to report this book does indeed answer all three.

Having read some other books on pos
Margaret Sankey
Nov 25, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly depressing study of 70 years of financial chicanery and evolution of tax havens and money laundering, with highlight that include the City of London and its outposts in Gibraltar and Jersey, Omar Bongo of Gabon and the French neo-colonial Elf scandal, active anti-tax lobby groups and their PR, celebrities who campaign for anti-poverty measures and hide their income in the Netherlands, ineffective PATRIOT Act provisions and terrorism financing, the Caymans and the Bahamas, seedy ads in ...more
Ahmed Mohsen
فكرة الكتاب جيده جدا ....
يتحدث المؤلف عن احد اهم الأفكار الاقتصادية التى تحكم النظام الاقتصادي العالمي ، و هي فكرة الأوف شور Off shore و هي الطريقة التى من خلالها تتجنب الشركات متعددة الجنسيات دفع الضرائب من خلال طرق و آليات معروفة .
الكتاب ملئ بالأرقام و الحكايات الصحفية الصادمة ، و التى تبعث على الدهشة الطويلة ...كيف يكسب أغنياء العالم كل هذه الاموال دون اي ضرائب أو التزامات حقيقية عليهم تجاه المجتمع ....لكن لأن المؤلف صحفي ...فإن الكتاب يعيبه التطويل المبالغ فيه ، و الكثير من الحكايات الصحفية
Jul 04, 2012 Martina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Devastating book.

*insert bad joke about likely substance abuse following the completion of the book*
Colin Heber-Percy
If capitalism used to be a force for good in the world, drawing communities and nations closer together through trade and mutual cooperation, it certainly, demonstrably isn't any longer. This book opens a window on the current reality: greed, corporate irresponsibility, and criminality. Shaxson's primary target is offshore finance which he describes as a sort of metastasing cancer in the body of global finance. He argues that the City of London sits at the heart of an offshore empire; the Britis ...more
The truest sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic that could ever be written. Why trouble yourself about a little buried treasure on one little island with only a few corpses on a dead man's treasure chest when the capital outflows of entire countries or industries can be redirected?

This is an easy to read introduction to tax havens and the offshore system. It's disturbing in that you can see why Africa will remain poor and why we will remain at risk of financial shocks like the collapse of
Nov 19, 2015 Xing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book offers revelatory insights into the world of tax avoidance, financial corruption, and secrecy, explaining its evolution and how these acts are perpetuated systemically.

When scandals involving corporations such as Apple erupted some years ago, I (along with the general public) had inklings that these might be deep-seated, menacing problems. I had also read several books on the 2009 crisis and the roles of out-of-control leverage, accounting firms, collateralised debt obligations, and c
Mar 22, 2014 Muhammad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ini buku bagus sekali. Membacanya hampir seperti membaca fiksi, namun demikian percayalah ini buku bukan fiksi. Pada hal yang dijelaskan oleh Shaxson, masyarakat dunia memang sepertinya didisain oleh admin media massa untuk tidak tahu. Dan jika tahu segera ia dibuat lupa atau dianggap tidak waras atau paranoid yang gemar pada cerita konspiratif. Tax haven adalah kenyataan yang hidup. Ia adalah pernyataan dari konsep yang sering kita merasa terlalu abstrak terhadapnya, yaitu neo-imperialisme. Off ...more
Jan 19, 2016 Mugen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author seems to have done a superhuman level of research in the process of writing this book. He clearly mentions and explains repeatedly how difficult it is to get hold of information on Tax Havens and how they are being used. But still he's managed to find a wealth of information.

However, while putting together all this wealth of information there's a lot of bias about how the information is presented. The book consists of about 90% opinions, beliefs, allegations, complaints, overlooking a
Tariq Mahmood
Dec 06, 2015 Tariq Mahmood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economy, corporations
Really enlightening book on how Corporations are making money using Off-shore accounts. Off-shores are everywhere, even in the heart of London. This book finally settles the debate between paying tax or setting up charities. Do we expect rich people to pay tax due on their profits or are we happy for them to embezzle tax and set you charities when they have made their millions? Not only is Tax honourable, but also it enforces liability on the government to deliver. These mighty 'pledges' by rich ...more
Brian Greiner
Jan 05, 2015 Brian Greiner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very impressive, and important book. It tackles arcane accounting rules and attempts to explain their effects on all of our lives. It succeeds, for the most part, but the writing style is a bit uneven ... hence the 4 stars instead of 5.
Mr. Shaxson carefully presents his evidence, including some historical background, and builds his case layer by layer. He manages to do this for a general audience that probably doesn't have a background in economics or accounting, and this is to his cr
Sep 24, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding, and very readable, analysis of how corporate finance has grown so powerful that it can basically do what it likes. And we how we all suffer the consequences! The section on the City of London Corporation is particularly eye-opening!
Jan 22, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t want to read this book – an expose of how the rich and powerful rip off the rest of us just looked too depressing. But it was strongly recommended to me, and was the subject of a book club I planned to go to, so I swallowed my reservations and downloaded a copy. And it was depressing. But sometimes you need to know stuff that depresses you. Nicholas Shaxson has clearly carried out extensive research and has produced a detailed and comprehensive account of how tax havens developed, how t ...more
Nathaniel James
Apr 08, 2014 Nathaniel James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is no rant about a few greedy people sticking their money in the Caymans to get around the IRS, but a full-blown expose of the most insidious and least understood sector of global finance on the planet today. The world's "off shore" banking system has been growing exponentially since the 1970s and today plays host not to billions, but trillions of dollars. Dollars that would otherwise be moving through your national economy, propping up your revenue base and allowing for much needed investm ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Anastasia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 5-stars, 2015
Loistava tietopaketti veroparatiiseista ja offshoringista!
Hidas lukea ehkä sanaston ja teeman takia mutta tosi mielenkiintoinen, suosittelen lämpimästi!
Martin Waterhouse
To pay taxes, or not to pay taxes, that is the question ... To which the corporate, international financial and global criminal fraternity have answered with a resounding No. This is a wonderfully dark tale of money eating itself and spewing out more, on which it then feeds and grows, warping the laws and norms of civil society to the point that all we can do is willingly, though blindly, throw ourselves into it to feed its relentless greed. A fascinating, inspiring and depressing book - brillia ...more
Dvir Oren
interesting book but I disagree with the author's personal opinion on some things in the book. Good introduction to tax heavens

Tax havens are nothing more than tools for wealthy and power people to maintain their wealth and power. By allowing global elites to avoid their taxes, they further the gap between rich and poor. They also take an enormous toll on the developing world and make it even more difficult for small- and medium-sized business to compete with major corporations. Tax havens don’t
Jun 26, 2014 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: empire
The neoliberal sense of place

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to, Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation., Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' working conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company's sites.]

Brad Belschner
Apr 08, 2014 Brad Belschner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
This book is about the nefarious world of tax havens. It affects YOU. If you want to understand the secret machine behind modern politics, read this book. My eyes are opened.

I confess, I'm somewhat sympathetic to legal tax avoidance. I believe taxes should be much lower, and I use strategies to lower the taxes I owe. But even I can't admire this system. We need to call the banking system today exactly what it is: evil. Bad things go on secretly in the dark...and tax havens are all in the dark.
W. Littlejohn
Apr 27, 2012 W. Littlejohn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I couldn't help but feel that the writing was mediocre and the organization left a good deal to be desired, this is an extremely important introduction to an extremely troubling situation—the world of offshore banking. As Shaxson shows, "offshore" is about much more than just the Caymans and Bermuda. In fact, it's about much more than just offshore. This is a story about how high finance has been able to gain control in jurisdictions small and large, and essentially have its own way, ho ...more
Harry Rutherford
This is a book with a particular argument to make, that tax havens are a Bad Thing. And it does a good job of making it engaging and readable, considering that it is, in the end, a book about international tax law and accountancy practices. It traces the historical development of the current system and illustrates it with plenty of colourful anecdotes about individuals along the way to keep it interesting.

Among the notable points it makes:

Tax avoidance is just one part of the problem. Offshore j
Tom Hunter
Aug 10, 2013 Tom Hunter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important and profound book that exposes what is really going on around the world. Rich elites with utterly depraved lack of morality are cheating, lying and thieving against the rest of the world's population in places such as that vile cesspool of depravity the Isle of Jersey, in the Cayman Islands--a vile place that has enabled criminality of the worst sort, of foolish places like the state of Delaware that allowed themselves to enable the destruction of their fellow Americans thro ...more
This is an extended narrative discussing the origins, features and impact of modern-day tax havens, from the early 20th Century up until the financial crisis of 2008. It points its finger not just at the usual suspects in the Caribbeans, but also enclaves in what would not normally be considered geographically offshore, such as Delaware, and the City of London. Much of the material is journalistic - ie, anecdotal and inferential so the usual caveats apply. It meanders and could have been a lot s ...more
Jo Murphy
Feb 03, 2013 Jo Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book's premise is that to understand how there has been a significant transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% we need to study the central role played by tax havens. The author, Nicholas Shaxson, defines a tax haven as a 'place that seeks to attract business by offering politically stable facilities to help people or entities get around the rules, laws and regulations of jurisdictions elsewhere.'
Through the avoidance of tax wealthy individuals and multinationals have abrogated their respon
Nikhil Deshmukh
Apr 09, 2012 Nikhil Deshmukh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this hard hitting investigation he uncovers how offshore tax evasion, which has cost the U.S. 100 billion dollars in lost revenue each year, is just one item on a long rap sheet outlining the damage that offshoring wreaks on our societies. In a riveting journey from Moscow to London to Switzerland to Delaware, Shaxson dives deep into a vast and secret playground where bankers and multinational corporations operate side by side with nefarious tax evaders, organized criminals and the world’s we ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Gwen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really should have known more of this, given that I'm a trainee auditor for one of the firms mentioned in the book. Especially about the city of London. I had no idea.

On finishing the book I'm split between about... 60% renewed confidence that it's a good thing to be an auditor and care about this, 20% wanting to get the hell out of this industry, and 20% wanting to become a rich international banking asshole.

Definitely need to re-read it, in any case.
Oscar To
Apr 25, 2014 Oscar To rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could recommend only one book for people to read about why the economy is screwed up, this is it. This book somehow manages to read like a piece of fiction and grips you as you start to realise how horrific things are with the global economic system. The unfortunate fact is that there is no happy ending for it, yet.
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Shaxson was born in Malawi and has lived at various times in India, Brazil, England, Lesotho, Spain, Angola, South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands. Since 1993 he has written on global business and politics for the Financial Times, Reuters, the Economist and its sister publication the Economist Intelligence Unit, International Affairs, Foreign Affairs, American Interest, the BBC, Africa Confide ...more
More about Nicholas Shaxson...

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“One is that the offshore system is perhaps the strongest determinant of how political and economic power works in this world. It helps rich people, companies and countries stay on top, for no good economic or political reason. It’s the battleground of the rich versus the poor, you versus the corporations, the havens against the democracies – and in each battle, unless you’re very rich, you are losing.” 1 likes
“A table in Raymond Baker’s 2005 book Capitalism’s Achilles Heel outlines just how far the United States has fallen. By then, it showed, U.S. banks were free to receive the proceeds from a long list of crimes committed outside the country, including alien smuggling, racketeering, peonage, and slavery.4 Profiting from these crimes is legal, just so long as the crime itself happens offshore. A few of these loopholes have now been closed, and U.S. law addresses some of the others, though often only in tangential, incomplete ways. But it remains true that a U.S. bank can knowingly receive the proceeds of a wide range of foreign crimes, such as handling stolen property generated offshore.” 0 likes
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