During the campaign, President Obama asserted that tax havens “cost” the Treasury $100 billion per year (see, for instance, 8:07 of this video), echoing the assertions made by demagogues such as Michigan’s Democratic Senator, Carl Levin. Many gullible journalists proceeded to disseminate this number, even though I repeatedly warned that it was a blatant fabrication. Indeed, it was the first falsehood that I punctured in my video entitled, Tax Havens: Myths vs Facts.
So it was with considerable interest that I read about the recent testimony of IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, who acknowledged that the Obama‐Levin numbers are “wild estimates” that “don’t have much basis.” Here is the key passage from a report from Bloomberg:
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman said projections that the US loses $US100 billion annually to offshore tax havens are “wild estimates” that “don’t have much basis”. …“Those numbers are pretty broad numbers,” Shulman said. The $US100 billion figure, a compilation of private‐sector estimates, is often cited by Michigan Senator Carl Levin… North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan also frequently cites the $US100 billion figure.
This, of course, raises an interesting question. If politicians are willing to use dishonest numbers to push a certain policy, what does that suggest about the merits of the policy?