DEVIN NUNES raised eyebrows in 2013 when, as chairman of a congressional working group on tax, he urged reforms that would make America “the largest tax haven in human history”. Though he was thinking of America’s competitiveness rather than turning his country into a haven for dirty money, the words were surprising: America is better known for walloping tax-dodgers than welcoming them. Its assault on Swiss banks that aided tax evasion, launched in 2007, sparked a global revolution in financial transparency. Next year dozens of governments will start to exchange information on their banks’ clients automatically, rather than only when asked to. The tax-shy are being chased to the world’s farthest corners.
And yet something odd is happening: Mr Nunes’s wish may be coming true. America seems not to feel bound by the global rules being crafted as a result of its own war on tax-dodging. It is also failing to tackle the anonymous shell companies often used to hide money. The Tax Justice Network, a lobby group, calls the United States one of the world’s top three “secrecy jurisdictions”, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong. All this adds up to “another example of how the US has elevated exceptionalism to a constitutional principle,” says Richard Hay of Stikeman Elliott, a law firm. “Europe has been outfoxed.”