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Offshore Tax Havens Democratized on “Art Hack” Website

Today is April 15, and that means that taxes are due ... at least for most of us. Artist and hacker Paolo Cirio tracked down authors and activists who study tax havens and asked them about the details.


This morning, journalist Laura Flanders posted an interview with the artist and hacker Paolo Cirio, whose work is especially appropriate on tax day.

Cirio, a former fellow at a New York-based art and technology center called Eyebeam, is fascinated by the economics of tax havens. More than 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies use offshore tax havens, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.That allows a long list of companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Cargill to pay less than 10 percent of their income in taxes. And it's not just U.S. taxpayers that are getting ripped off: a report released in 2012 found that developing countries lost $5.83 trillion to secret and illegal transfers of money that are facilitated by the tax haven system. Tax evasion by the rich contributed the financial crisis in Greece as well, with a recent report finding that more than 10 percent of the country's GDP went unreported in 2009.

Cirio addressed this problem through an art project called Loophole for All, in which he hacked into the websites of companies that offer incorporation in the Cayman Islands, a popular tax haven. After releasing the list of companies that had incorporated there, Cirio dreamed up a way to democratize the loophole previously available only to the powerful. For the price of 99 cents, Cirio's website will provide you with a certificate that makes it easy to steal the identity of a Cayman Islands company and pay taxes like a bankster.

Cirio says that the project is primarily intended as a form of protest and not as a scam. But is it legal? Not exactly.

Then again, “to steal the identity of a Caymans company is illegal only in the Cayman Islands,” Cirio explains, "and Caymans court orders have very little credibility abroad.”


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