Panamá,25º

19 de Feb de 2020

Nacional

Tax Havens take hard knock

Whoever thought of using 17 wickets and a ‘take a number system’ to serve the public visiting the American Embassy in Panama—should be o...

Whoever thought of using 17 wickets and a ‘take a number system’ to serve the public visiting the American Embassy in Panama—should be organizing the Guillermo Endara (“Pichulo”) presidential campaign.

It’s a surprisingly effective people-server that quickly processes everything from Medicare applications to adding pages to passports. Wait time is less than ten minutes; you always know when your number is coming up; and, the waiting area is easily accessible for the physically-challenged. Best of all, the bilingual information agents are patient and knowledgeable.

Yet, there are a couple of caveats: Bring your Social Security card, birth certificate and passport when signing up for Medicare. Also, expect longer waits at the beginning or end of the week and the day before or after a holiday. Strangely, there is no difference in the waiting time during a morning or afternoon visit.

KNOCK KNOCK. How many friends in Panama have offered to help you ‘avoid’ taxes through offshore schemes? Now these schemers are worried, REALLY worried.

Swiss bank UBS AG agreed last week to pay $780 million to the US Department of Treasury, after admitting the company helped Americans evade paying taxes by hiding their Swiss bank accounts from the IRS. More importantly, however, UBS agreed to turn over to the IRS the names of its clients and the amount of money they invested over the last couple of decades. Let me repeat that for the hard of hearing: HEY, TAX CHEAT, THE IRS IS ON YOUR TAIL.

UBS has an estimated 20,000 so-called "undeclared accounts" for US citizens with an estimated $18 billion in assets. This means that each year, the Treasury loses about $100 billion in tax revenues from offshore tax cheats. And, now the IRS knows who these cheaters are and where they live.

Birds of a feather. Interestingly, in 2008, UBS’ employees and PAC doled out $3.1 million to federal politicians, 54 percent of which went to Democrats. President Obama got the most money, pocketing $512,800 for his presidential campaign. Senator John McCain got $170,900 and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ($108,500), out-hustled former presidential candidates Mitt Romney ($123,350) and Rudy Giuliani ($111,300).

Another Saab story. General Motors and Sweden have pulled the plug on Saab Automobile, forcing the automaker last week to file for reorganization under Swedish law. GM dumped the company after failing to find a buyer and following the Swedish government’s refusal to bail out the company. GM’s decision to cut ties with Saab comes after two decades of unprofitable ownership.

Saab says the reorganization, under court supervision, will take about three months and make the auto manufacturer an “independent” business entity. Industry insiders believe Saab is bankrupt and cannot afford any major structural changes. Furthermore, Sweden’s refusal to prop up Saab sends a signal to American government officials that it’s acceptable to turn off the money spigot and let the market deal with weak companies.