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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Making Sense of Trillions in Offshore Dollars

How do you present 260 gigabytes of international financial documents, revealing trillions of dollars in undisclosed wealth As my colleague Rick Gladstone reports, an enormous leak of confidential financial records, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has exposed the identities of thousands of people who benefit from offshore tax havens.

The consortium’s Web site attempts to present the findings of the group of 86 investigative journalists, who spent the past 15 months sifting through the contents of a computer hard drive that arrived in the mail. The offerings are rich.

There is a list of some of the better-known individuals with offshore trusts, including a deputy speaker of Mongolia’s Parliament, who is now considering resigning, and the songwriter Denise Rich. There is also geographic analysis, including the fact that most people the journalists identified who had set up offshore entities lived in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

A good starting place to understanding what this all means for offshore banking novices, however, is this guide to stashing one’s cash.

Creating an offshore bank account is not illegal, the interactive reminds us, but there are many ways to skirt the law, should one desire. Tactics for getting one’s money out of the country covertly include creating a fake lawsuit and smuggling gems.

The payoff becomes clear by the end of the offshore money game. By investing $1 million over three years at a modest interest rate of 3 percent, one could avoid $31,207 in taxes (based on an applicable Canadian tax rate.) The incentives get bigger, of course, the more one has to hide: $50 million, over 10 years at a 6 percent interest rate, could yield $15 million in tax savings.