Tax Havens in an Austere World: The Clash of New Ideas and Existing Interests

Richard Woodward

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Since the global financial crisis offshore finance centres (OFCs) have been faced with unprecedented and unremitting pressure from leading states, international organisations and civil society organisations to enhance the transparency of their tax regimes. Superficially the age of austerity, characterised by large and sustained public deficits and popular revulsion against multinational corporations and rich individuals abusing the tax system, appear to have vaporised the obstacles that previously stood in the way of attempts to deliver a robust global tax transparency regime. The G20s pledge to ‘end the era of banking secrecy’ and the OECD’s boast of orchestrating a ‘revolution’ a global tax transparency prompted excited talk of the ‘end of offshore’. Unfortunately this is considerably at odds with the empirical evidence which has seen OFCs continue to thrive in the era of austerity. This paper will seek to argue that the origins of the offshore financial system lie in demands by leading states, international financial institutions and corporate actors for instruments to manage the instabilities and contradictions intrinsic to the neo-liberal economic project. The resilience of offshore financial centres and tax havens reflects responses to the financial crisis, of which austerity is an integral part, that have perpetuated the neo-liberal model. Although many leading actors have made a rhetorical commitment to a clampdown the reality is that offshore financial instruments are central to the delivery of the austerity policies to which they are likewise pledged. The paper therefore predicts that offshore finance will continue to flourish in the age of austerity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Austerity State
EditorsStephen McBride, Bryan Evans
PublisherUniversity of Toronto Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781487521950
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2017


  • austerity
  • tax avoidance


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