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Treasure Islands: Dirty Money, Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole Your Cash Paperback – International Edition, February 6, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Nicholas Shaxson is the author of Poisoned Wells, the Dirty Politics of African Oil, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and an experienced journalist.

About the Author

NICHOLAS SHAXSON is the author of Poisoned Wells, the Dirty Politics of African Oil, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and an experienced journalist writing regularly for The Financial Times and The Economist.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (February 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099541726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099541721
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,565,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The stories are amazing.
Dirk J. Willard
Exposing the offshore tax havens is one of the most important things we can do to achieve financial reform and stability, and reduce inequality in the world.
DG
Besides being very informative it is also very well written and enjoyable to read.
James M

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Z. Cohen on April 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before I get into my review, I wanted to point out that for someone without a lot of financial knowledge, this could be a very difficult book to read. I have a college degree in accounting, did some graduate work in tax, and worked for one of the big four accounting firms for a year in their international tax consulting department. I quit working for them and left the field entirely after I realized in vague generalities what they were doing, which was one of the reasons I was so interested in this book. The international system Shaxson describes coincides perfectly with what I saw in the accounting firm I worked for, and some of the specific techniques he describes correspond exactly to the tax structures I used to see discussed in trainings and other meetings. Given that background, I found this book incredibly engrossing and informative, but if you have low financial literacy, you may have a tough time with it. However, it is incredibly well written, uses a minimum of jargon, and tries its hardest to break down complex tax and financial concepts into lay terms.

Treasure Islands does a really incredible job in shedding light on an arcane, complex international financial system that has evolved mainly over the past 100 years. Like most people, when I heard the term tax haven, I would think of a few rogue Caribbean islands who helped a few rich people and crime lords launder money or hide it from taxation. Shaxson turns that conception on its head. While the term tax haven sounds like it specifically refers to taxes, Shaxon defines it more broadly: "Tax havens can be loosely described as a jurisdiction that seeks to attract money by offering politically stable facilities to help people or business entities get around the laws, rules, and regulations of jurisdictions elsewhere.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By conjunction on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Shocking, a word that many reviewers have used, is a good one for this book. Terrifying might be another.

I am not an economist by a long shot but am lately reading books like this to understand what is going on.

Shaxson's book is basically about the modern structure of finance capitalism, and he suggests that the foundation stone of the edifice is the offshore system.

The basis of offshore banking is that a global corporation sidles up to some tiny country and offers it some nice little kickbacks in return for an agreement that they will have to pay little or no tax.

The corporation then presents its accounts in such a way as to make it look that all its profits are generated in Jersey, or the Cayman Islands or wherever it may be.

Hence we get headlines like the one the other day where Barclays Bank declared 11.6 billion pounds in profits and paid 113 million in tax.

According to Shaxson this would not be in the least out of the ordinary, more like normal for any really large company.

Because of this these companies grow like Topsy, and generate staggering wealth.

Additionally they venerate at the shrine of banking secrecy which means no-one can ever find out what is really going on with these guys.

Offshore banking started to mushroom around 1960 and although Shaxson doesn't quite say this, it sounds like when the Brits lost their empire they started to look for other ways of making a nuisance of themselves.

Under the influence of these companies, in the last thirty years many large countries especially Britain and the US have effectively deregulated their internal financial systems so that it is much easier for these large corporations to find more and more ways of dodging tax.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Justmine on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is both important and disturbing. Important because it clearly and frankly describes the reality of "offshore" banking and it's effect on society at large. Disturbing because of the dimensions of the system revealed and the unbridled greed of the economic elite that exploits it. Destroys the myth that tax havens are simply wealth protection for the few and reveals them as a massive drain on the economies of nations large and small, rich and poor.

A must read for anyone interested in social justice or, for that matter, their own future welfare.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sascha on March 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is so good that in the more than 10 years I have been using Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, this is the first time I've ever written a review for anything!

Nicholas Shaxson has written a very compelling and well-written book exploring almost every aspect of the impact of tax havens and their grossly disproportionate influence on the world's capital, economics and Dutch Disease (more like "British Disease") capture of entire regulatory and political systems. It was quite a revelation even for someone who has worked for several years in finance. It makes the occasional whispered sentences about "regulatory arbitrage" in tedious heavy finance books look like references to Medieval practices.

This book pretty much sums up why the world's economic system has been rotten to the core since the 1970s (actually the issues began 20+ years earlier, but their impact was not felt until later for several reasons). This is something that anyone who has ever been employed or created a business or even just watched the un-improving constant horrors in the developing world probably instinctively felt but could not understand why.

Even if you are a "libertarian", in the full maximum capital flight and economic sense, or a financier, this book will fully illustrate the very formidable arguments against why such a world view is incompatible with mankind's progress and ultimately unsustainable, but currently (very) lucrative if you believe change will be slow and there are still *huge* regulatory opportunities to exploit for personal gain.

[opinion]
Unfortunately, I believe it may take another depression (prolonged period of long term mass unemployment and low growth) in the West, particularly UK and the US, to effect change rapidly.
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