Junior high school is a difficult time for parents as well as students. It’s a time when boys start to discover girls, and girls start to discover boys. (Reports differ on exactly which group discovers the other first, but I hear it’s equally terrifying for most parents.) One of the very first things junior high boys and girls start doing when they discover each other is rating each other – usually on a scale of 1-10. The 9s and 10s form cliques to congratulate each other on their good fortune, while the 3s and 4s learn to tell jokes, plan on making money, or learn to get by with a “great personality.” (In case you’ve forgotten, junior high school can be really cruel.)
It turns out, though, that junior high kids aren’t the only ones rating the world around them. Now comes news that two German economics professors have rated the attractiveness of 100 different countries’ corporate tax systems. Their paper, “Measuring Tax Attractiveness Across Countries”, develops a new measure, which they call the Tax Attractiveness Index, “reflecting the attractiveness of a country’s tax environment and the tax planning opportunities that are offered.” And the results aren’t nearly as obvious as that cutie you spotted across the locker hall that first day of eighth grade.
The professors identified 16 relevant components of corporate tax systems. They started with obvious factors like statutory tax rates, taxation of dividends and capital gains, and withholding taxes. Then they added more esoteric factors like group taxation regime, loss offset provisions, double tax treaty networks, thin capitalization rules, and controlled foreign company rules. (That’s the stuff you pay us to worry about.) Next, they developed methods to quantify each factor from zero (signifying the least favorable conditions, such as high statutory tax rates) to one (signifying the most favorable conditions, such as tax-free capital gains). Finally, they added the values for each condition and divided each country’s total score by 16 to yield the final rankings.
Whew! So, what do the results show? Which countries are the hotties and which countries are the notties? Well, generally, Caribbean tax havens like Bermuda and the Bahamas (tied for #1), the Cayman Islands (#3), and British Virgin islands (#4), ranked highest. European nations also fared well, especially European Union nations benefiting from the Parent-Subsidiary Directive and Interest and Royalty Directive abolishing intra-EU withholding taxes.
And what about Uncle Sam? Is he flirting with the “mean girls,” or is he waiting to get picked last for kickball? Well, the United States scored 0.2342 out of a possible 1.000. That placed Uncle Sam 94th out of 100 countries. We’re trailing Egypt, Japan, and Zimbabwe. But we’re still beating the Philippines, Indonesia, Peru, South Korea, Venezuela, and last-place Argentina!
So now you know – tax-wise, at least, Uncle Sam’s a dud, averting his eyes from hotties like Bermuda. We confess we don’t know the first thing about Cayman Island group taxation regimes or Zimbabwean thin capitalization rules. But we do know the most expensive tax mistake you can make, in this or any country, and that’s failing to plan. So call us if you’re ready to start saving, whether you want more dollars, euros, shekels, pesos, or yen. And remember, we’re here for your family, friends, and colleagues, too!