The Rise of The Swiss Tax Haven in the Interwar Period: An International Comparison


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The Rise of The Swiss Tax Haven in the Interwar Period: An International Comparison
Farquet Christophe
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EHES Working Papers in Economic History
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The history of tax havens during the decades before World War II is still little
known. To date, the studies that have focused on the 1920s and 1930s have
presented either a very general perspective on the development of tax havens or
a narrow national point of view. Based on unpublished historical archives of five
countries (Switzerland, Great Britain, Belgium, France, Germany), this paper
offers therefore a new comparative appraisal of international tax competition
during this period in order to answer the following question: What was the
specificity of the Swiss case - already considered a quintessential tax haven at
the time - in comparison to other banking centres?
The findings of this research study are twofold. First, the 1920s and 1930s
appear as something of a golden age of opportunity for avoiding taxation
through the relocation of assets. Most of the financial centres granted consistent
tax benefits for imported capital, while the limited degree of international
cooperation and the usual guarantee of banking secrecy in European countries
prevented the taxation of exported assets. Second, within this general
environment, the fiscal strategies of a tax haven like Switzerland differed from
those of a great financial power like Great Britain. Whereas the Swiss
administration readily placed itself at the service of the banking community,
British policy was more balanced between the contradictory interests of the
Board of Inland Revenue, the Treasury, and the English business circles.
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30/10/2012 9:23
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20/08/2019 12:53
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