Over the years, many OECD countries, including the United States, have identified tax havens as a significant problem, and have acted to limit the ability of their taxpayers to use tax havens to reduce their taxes. The United States has implemented tax regimes, including subpart F and the passive foreign investment company rules, and disclosure regimes, such as the recently-enacted FATCA rules, to prevent U.S. taxpayers from taking advantage of tax haven jurisdictions.
But the intersection of a number of U.S. tax rules, it turns out, makes the United States an attractive place for foreigners to invest—and hide—their money. Principal among these is the revenue rule, an eighteenth-century common law rule that prevents the United States from recognizing and enforcing foreign tax judgments. As a result, if a foreign taxpayer hides money in the United States and fails to pay taxes at home, her government has no recourse to satisfy the tax debt with the taxpayer’s U.S. assets. Such hidden money disparately impacts developing countries by reducing their ability to finance government through developing tax infrastructure, and instead forcing them to remain dependent on foreign aid.
The revenue rule stands in stark contrast to the general default rule that U.S. courts will enforce foreign final judgments. But the revenue rule is not grounded in any compelling policy considerations. Moreover, to the extent that the U.S. revokes the revenue rule, not only will the U.S. aid other countries—including, especially, developing countries—but it may receive reciprocal aid in collecting taxes from U.S. taxpayers with assets held overseas. This Article argues that the U.S. should revoke the revenue rule, both from a moral obligation to aid developing economies in becoming self-sufficient and to receive reciprocal aid in collecting taxes being held overseas.
Copyright 2014 by Samuel D. Brunson.