Cash hits back at Maher over Bermuda ‘rant’

  • (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

 Bill Maher

    (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images) Bill Maher

A US comic who branded Bermuda “a tax loophole masquerading as a country” has been blasted by the Island’s business sector.

Real Time host Bill Maher launched his attack on the Island on his top-rated show after a report on offshore jurisdictions was released by the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Citizens for Tax Justice, which labelled both Bermuda and the Caymans as “notorious tax havens.”

And the report said that Bermuda had billions of dollars in reported profits from US-controlled subsidiaries of American companies.

But David Cash, interim chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), which was set up to boost international investment in the Island, dismissed Mr Maher’s attack as “a rant”.

“Mr Maher’s previous television show was called Politically Incorrect — Real Time might also be titled Chronically Ungrateful,” said Mr Cash

“If Mr Maher had taken the time in the past to thank Bermuda when our insurance and reinsurance businesses paid billions of dollars of US hurricane, drought and earthquake losses without the benefit of the tax deductions afforded US insurers, then I would be more willing to pay attention to his ranting.”

Mr Cash also pointed out that Bermuda had signed the first tax information exchange agreement with the US nearly 35 years ago — well before recent concerns over tax avoidance and evasion.

He added: “In the time since that agreement was signed by Premier Sir John Swan, Bermuda has worked constructively with US legal and tax authorities on any matter with which they have needed our assistance.

“Bermuda can hold its head high as a responsible member of the international financial community.”

Mr Maher told his audience last Friday night: “I read this week the paper Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out that American companies have $94 billion in profits in Bermuda, which is interesting because the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Bermuda is $6 billion, which means the people of Bermuda have spent 15 times more than they make on American products.”

Citizens for Tax Justice legislative director Steve Warnhoff told Mr Maher: “The loopholes in America’s corporate tax have grown so outrageous that our policymakers should be embarrassed.

“The data in this report demonstrates that a huge portion of the supposedly offshore profits are likely to be US profits that are manipulated so that they appear to be earned in countries like Bermuda or the Cayman Islands where they won’t be taxed.

“Policymakers should close the loopholes that make this manipulation possible.”

Bermuda is mentioned more than 170 times in the 52 page report — although Cayman, Switzerland and Luxembourg rate more mentions.

And out of 12 nations listed by profits reported by US multinational corporations for 2010, Bermuda ranks second on $94 billion, behind the Netherlands on $127 billion.

Bermuda Chamber of Commerce president Kristi Grayston said Mr Maher’s comments were unlikely to damage Bermuda’s reputation as an honest country in which to do business.

She added: “The long term view of many people is that Bermuda is a tax haven — we all know that we are not.

“It’s an ill-informed comment and probably part of a much bigger monologue of things that bothered Bill Maher this week.”

Ms Grayston said that Bermuda was leader in the number of tax information agreements it had signed with other countries.

“Every country now realises Bermuda is not a tax haven. I don’t think many people are going to lose any sleep over this. Bermuda is sound and there is nothing shady about what goes on here,” she added.

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