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Regulierung! Welche Regulierung? Die politische Ökonomie von Steuer- und Regulierungsoasen

4. Wintertagung des ICAE

Understanding actual capitalism needs an understanding of the domain of offshore economy, esp. of tax havens and regulation-free zones for financial flows and assets. They are based at offshore jurisdictions which provide the mandatory secrecy. An extensive part of the global economy is kept in dark.



29. November – 1. Dezember, 2012


Wissensturm Linz, Kärntnerstraße 26, 4020 Linz


The conference should lighten aspects of the function of offshore jurisdictions and their impact on global economy, e.g.:

  • Business models and instruments of offshore activities
  • The significance of the offshore economy for actual crises
  • The role of economic theories and economists in justifying offshore economy
  • The role and structure of user groups and intermediaries and their strategies and tactics
  • The history of offshore states
  • Political systems of offshore states
  • Actual regulation discourses with respect to the offshore economy
  • Consequences of offshore economy for non-financial companies and different citizen of offshore jurisdictions

The aim of this conference is to bring together researchers from different fields (such as economists, sociologists, historians and political scientists) to explore neglected aspects of global offshore economy.


Donnerstag, 29.11.2012

19:00 Uhr: Eröffnung und Publikumsdiskussion “Ist Österreich eine Steueroase?”

Eröffnung der Tagung durch Walter Ötsch (ICAE), Christian Schmidt (Stadtkämmerer der Landeshauptstadt Linz) und Josef Moser (Direktor der Arbeiterkammer Oberösterreich)

Impulsvorträge von Martina Neuwirth (Wiener Institut für Internationalen Dialog und Zusammenarbeit, vidc) und Otto Farny (Arbeiterkammer Wien).

Morning Session

Chair: Gerd Grözinger

09:00 – 10:00 Uhr: Walter Otto Ötsch: The Political Economy of Offshore Jurisdictions: Its Neoliberal Background

Präsentation, öffnet eine externe URL in einem neuen Fenster (213KB)

10:30 – 11:30 Uhr: Ingo Fiedler: Online Gambling as a Game Changer to Money Laundering

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (308KB)

Discussant: Jakob Kapeller

Abstract: The market for money laundering is a destructive one (Unger 2007) and is a necessary condition for organized crime. The law of supply and demand tells us that a decreasing price for money laundering will increase the demand for money laundering and indirectly the prevalence of organized crime (McCarthy, van Santen, Fiedler, 2012/2013).

While regulators thus try to increase the price for money laundering by increasing monitoring efforts the evolving technology leads to an ever decreasing price. This is mostly driven by the rise of electronic payment methods and cross border transactions. With online gambling a new opportunity for money laundering entered the stage. It offers a couple of advantages from the perspective of the money launderer: (1) A huge part of the market is still unregulated, (2) plenty of regular transactions help to disguise irregular ones, (5) online gambling comes with many payment options, (4) payments are often made internationally, and (5) payout ratios are very high.

Small and medium sums can easily be bet by criminals in virtual casinos or on sports betting sites and any potential winnings can be paid out as laundered and often tax-free gambling wins. Larger sums can be laundered by founding a virtual casino in an offshore jurisdiction and faking virtual business. The funds can then be paid out as business dividends. This talk highlights the different ways to launder money in online gambling and analyzes them in more detail. It is concluded that online gambling is a game changer to the market of money laundering and will lead to an increase in organized crime.

11:30 – 12:30 Uhr: Silke Ötsch: „Our Banking Secrecy is a Strong Castle“. Regulation Failure and the Use of Metaphors on Offshore Economy

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (1.8 MB)

Discussant: Stephan Pühringer

Abstract: In the contribution I assess that regulation of the offshore economy is not only a technical problem, but a problem that lies much deeper in implemented elite discourses and their effects. Politicians’ discourses on offshore economy shifted after the crisis. Whereas they first ignored the phenomenon, they later rhetorically attacked tax evasion and the circumvention of regulation. But a closer look on implemented regulation show that most states only imposed timid regulation or even lightened it. Laws intending to face tax havens are even combated by parties in power. Besides working out technical solutions on how to regulate offshore economy it might be useful to ask why offshore economy is not regulated despite public opinion usually is against it.

Referring to George Lakoffs studies about the misuse of language of interest groups, recent studies on the role of elites in financialization (Engelen et al. 2011; Ertürk et al. 2011) and to our own work on the use of spatial images of offshore service providers (Ötsch & Di Pauli 2009), I argue that one important reason for the continued existence of offshore economy is the intrusion of elite discourses related to offshore economy in the language and the thinking. By analysing the use of metaphors in key newspaper articles of different countries (Switzerland, Great Britain, Austria and the United States), I show that even in newspapers classified as middle-left, there is a contradiction between the apparent content of the article and the deeper meanings transmitted by metaphors. Even if the use of metaphors slightly differs from country to country, it is significant that the most used group of metaphors are those of war, violence and victims. The media analysis shows that the language of offshore constructs patriotic feelings about offshore economy and makes people identify with national offshore industry, even if this branch of the economy harms the majority of the citizens in question or has no apparent use for them. As a consequence of this, researchers and civil society should cautiously use metaphors (as the Tax Justice Network partly does) and question national categories while speaking on offshore economy favouring globally acting elites.

Afternoon Session

Chair: Doris Weichelbaumer

14:30 – 15:30 Uhr: Nicholas Shaxson: The Finance Curse. The Political Economy of Finance-Dependent Economies

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (464KB)

Discussant: Walter Ötsch

15:30 – 16:00 Uhr: Nicholas Shaxson: Presentation of the last Empirical Findings of James Henry

Links to pdfs of Press Release, öffnet eine Datei in einem neuen FensterSelected issues, öffnet eine Datei in einem neuen FensterMain report, öffnet eine Datei in einem neuen Fenster.

Discussant: Walter Ötsch

16:30 – 17:30 Uhr: Petr Janský: What are the most Important Offshore Financial Centres?

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (276KB)

Discussant: Markus Meinzer

Abstract: Offshore financial centres are an important part of the global financial system. This paper asks which centres are most important. We estimate the relative importance of offshore finance for different countries, and develop an index, which ranks countries according to their contribution to global offshore financial activity. As in the International Monetary Fund research by (Zoromé 2007), we estimate offshore financial activity by trade in financial services and, when data for these are not available, we use foreign portfolio assets and liabilities as an approximation. The results reveal that some of the developed countries have more characteristics of offshore financial centres than some of the usual small island suspects.

The secrecy score and the weighting are combined by simple multiplication to produce a Financial Secrecy Index which ranks secrecy jurisdictions according to their degree of secrecy and the scale of their trade in international financial services.

A jurisdiction with a larger share of the offshore finance market, and a high degree of opacity, may receive the same overall ranking as a smaller but more secretive jurisdiction. The reasons for this are clear – the ranking not only reflects information about which are the most secretive jurisdictions, but also the question of scale.

In this way, the Financial Secrecy Index provides an answer to the question: by providing offshore financial services and a lack of transparency, thereby facilitating and encouraging illicit flows and all the damage that they do to economies and to political systems, how much damage is each secrecy jurisdiction actually responsible for?

Saturday, 1st December, Morning Session, Wissensturm Linz (Chair: Walter Otto Ötsch)

09:00 – 10:00 Uhr: Ronen Palan: New Dependency Relations: Offshore, Large Banking Conglomerates and Development

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (261KB)

Discussant: Laura Seelkopf

Abstract: Evolutionary change is strongly affected, argues Kenneth Boulding, ‘by the existence of ‘empty niches’ in existing ecosystems.’ Boulding recalls the devastating impact the introduction of rabbits by man to the Australian continent has had. The imported rabbits expanded very rapidly into a very large ecological niche offered by the vast Australian continent that was lacking any predators. It may be argued that the spread of the tax havens throughout the twentieth century resembled an expansion of Australian rabbits into an ecological empty niche. Tax havens exploited an international institutional environment that combined three, somewhat contradictory factors: capitalism, a system that entrusts the allocation of resources to the owners of capital; an ideological commitment to the principle of open-market economy and free trade shared by the majority of the leading states in the world since the late 19th century; and the prevalent governance form based on the twin principles of sovereign equality and ‘national self determination’. The combination of these three factors has created a unique habitat of mores, conventions and rules that was exploited by some of the smallest states in the world to their benefit.

10:00 – 11:00 Uhr: Laura Seelkopf: Did the competition state rise? Globalization, international tax competition, and national welfare

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (627KB)

Discussant: Michaela Schmidt

Abstract: Does economic globalization erase domestic policy autonomy? Globalization theorists argue that it does, globalization-skeptics counter that it doesn’t. Reality, of course, is more nuanced. Analyzing tax policy in three country groups – OECD member states, tax havens, and least developed countries – we show that the process of economic integration has indeed constrained national policy autonomy as assumed by globalization theory.

Across all three country groups, governments have adjusted – to varying degrees – to international tax competition by de-taxing capital. However, in contrast to globalization theory, we find that tax competition has ambiguous effects on welfare state capacity, lowering it in big and poorly governed countries, yet increasing it in asmall, well-governed ones. Finally, we show that the group of OECD member states is least affected by tax competition. The main beneficiaries and victims of economic globalization are non-OECD countries.

(Chair: Gerd Grözinger)

11:30 – 12:30 Uhr: Franziska Bassen: An Approach: The Relationship between Government Debt and Tax Havens

Discussant: Laura Mader

Abstract: Die Wirkungskanäle, durch die Steueroasen negativen Einfluss auf die Staatsfinanzen eines Landes nehmen, sind nicht nur direkter, sondern auch indirekter Natur. Direkte Wirkungskanäle sind wohlbekannt – Steuerabfluss durch Hinterziehung und Vermeidung, sowohl als auch die Verengung der Steuerbasis durch Manipulation der Transferpreise in Unternehmen und Kapitalvermehrung in Off-Shore Finanzplätzen. Dieser Artikel widmet sich einer theoretischen Annäherung an die indirekten Wirkungskanäle der wachsenden Ungleichheit und der systemimmanenten Umverteilung zugunsten der Eigentümer von mobilen Kapitaleinheiten

12:30 – 13:30 Uhr: Markus Meinzer: Towards multilateral automatic information exchange. Current practice of AIE in selected countries

Präsentation, öffnet eine Datei (622KB)

Discussant: Philipp Gerhartinger

Abstract: Automatic information exchange for tax purposes is far more widespread than thought. Out of the twelve countries reviewed, only Austria does not engage in AIE on bank interest payments. Among the 34 OECD member states, only four countries (Austria, Israel, Switzerland2, Turkey) do not engage in AIE by sending AIE-records to other nations. Opponents of AIE and defenders of strict bank secrecy are an isolated minority.

The available comparative information on current AIE practices is improving, but remains sparse. Specific information on types of income which are most mobile and for which tax evasion is most rampant, such as capital returns (interest, dividends, royalties), is scarce. This study sheds light on a small selection of countries. Many more countries need to be scrutinised and more access to data is required in order to fully assess, improve and spread AIE with the aim of reducing tax evasion and economic inequalities