Reports emerging from Downing Street over the weekend underlined that Britain would like to get tougher on tax havens by making them "increasingly unacceptable and costly to operate". The reports focus on virtually the entire list of abuses identified in the Guardian's recent Tax Gap investigation which revealed how companies are now alleged to be shifting valuable intellectual property such as patents and consumer brands into tax havens. A key reform the government is reported to be pressing for is to tighten up the rules on transactions with tax-haven companies. Obama, before he became president, famously said that an office block in the British-controlled Cayman Islands acted as headquarters for 12,000 companies. (The Guardian).
One wonders how increasing measures to tax IP rights (be making tax havens less attractive) stimulates innovation and hence helps nurture the growth needed to kickstart global and UK economies. On the other hand, Mr Brown's government has embraced a knowledge based economy for many years now and perhaps it is legitimate that they may see IP rights transfers to tax efficient economies as theft?
Right: An IP Lawyer's empty beach chair on a haven beach
And, according to reputable IP Watch, leaders of the world’s largest economies struck a closed-door deal late Tuesday to create an international court for intellectual property litigation in a move sources said they deemed a contribution to the global economy. IP Finance contemplates how costs and damages would be awarded in such a court?
There's a fine line between making tax havens less attractive for IP and making the UK uncompetitive (in tax terms) for IP-owning businesses. The last time the Treasury looked at this, they pole-vaulted over that line (in the tie-in to exemption from tax of foreign dividends).
The IP tax treatment for related overseas companies is up for consultation this summer anyway.
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