People choose to become tax exiles for different reasons, or at least different versions of the same reason: greed. Stripped of the rhetoric, it all comes down to keeping more of what they've made, inherited, swindled or stolen. Their loyalty lies not with their country of birth, choice or opportunity; it lies with the country most willing to look the other way and let them keep more of their loot.
Not surprisingly, tax exiles are generally wealthy: rock stars, captains of industry, ne'er-do-well heirs of captains of industry, celebrities of all stripes, former dictators, among them. I mean, that's the whole point of becoming a tax exile. If you don't have a lot of dough it's unlikely becoming a tax exile would ever cross your mind. This is a good thing because countries generally thought of as tax havens wouldn't want you unless you were fabulously wealthy. Generally they have enough poor people — since they don't tax their wealthy people fairly — and far too many hopeful souls scrambling to get a toehold in the middle class to want another wanker like you. So finding poor or middle class tax exiles is as rare as finding flavour in tofu.
Being wealthy does not, of course, mean tax exiles are smart. They have people for that. Accountants, lawyers, wealth managers and assorted leeches ferret out often creative schemes to enable their clients to keep that extra couple of million and keep themselves on retainer. You and I have no people on retainer. You and I have never been on retainer ourselves. People on retainer call it that because it sounds more high class than saying they're getting paid — how drearily bourgeoisie — or on the take, which is what the people running countries considered tax havens are often on. I'm not sure what they call it.
One of the defining characteristics of tax havens is — and this should really go without saying — an almost non-existent tax rate, which leads me to the question of the day. Why would the United States of America, country of my birth, consider Canada a tax haven? Canada is to tax havens what Richard Reid, better known as the Shoe Bomber, is to terrorists — a complete failure.
Canada is a country you live in because you want to pay more tax than people of many other countries, most notably the U.S. Okay, want may be too strong a term; we are, after all, Canadian. We enjoy the benefits that come with paying more tax — universal single-payer health care, public schools for the handful of kids who still think studying is a better path to success than auditioning for Canadian Idol, a civil service that rarely asks for or takes bribes to discharge their functions, roads that only occasionally damage our cars, things like that.
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