A recent analysis indicates that in just St. Helens, England, tax haven companies own more than 500 properties. These tax haven companies are companies with registration in various offshore tax havens.
Global Witness is a campaign group that analyzed the Land Registry for England and Wales. It found that over 87,000 properties have anonymous overseas owners. Those properties are worth around £100 billion in total.
The analysis found that in St. Helens, 576 properties are owned by companies that are not registered within the United Kingdom. Of those, almost all or 563, are owned by businesses that are in tax havens or “secrecy jurisdictions.” The tax haven with the largest number of properties owned by companies registered there is Jersey, with 463 properties. To show the extent of that lead, the second largest is Guernsey with 54 properties and then the Isle of Man, which has 24.
When calculating the value of these properties owned by tax haven companies, the analysis was only able to get specific pricing information for 16 properties. Those combined are worth £103 million. The rest of the estimated value calculations were based on the average price for St. Helens properties. Accounting for inflation, the true value may be around £734 million, account for inflation. But even that may be conservative.
In North Wales, overseas companies own 10,937 properties. 9,854 or 90 percent of these are registered within secret jurisdictions. Estimates indicate that these properties owned by tax haven companies are worth around £6 billion.
What This Means
According to Global Witness, who completed the analysis, the overall results indicate that there is a “secret property scandal” in the United Kingdom. The group said that the results indicate that property is a tool used by corrupt and criminal individuals and companies in the UK to launder and hide stolen funds.
What Is Being Done
There have been talks in the UK government to create a register of property owners within the United Kingdom, but there has been minimal progress. Global Witness is strongly encouraging the government to accelerate the review of a draft law that would require companies that buy property in the United Kingdom to reveal the owners’ identity.
For now, those companies and high-net-worth individuals who take advantage of tax havens are still able to do so, but many groups, such as Global Witness, are pushing for this to change in the very near future.
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