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Officials: Nevada not tax haven

What do Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Nevada have in common?

If your answer is, “They’re all tax havens,” state officials would disagree. No, contrary to reports from Europe, Nevada is not a tax haven, according to Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and the governor’s office.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, at the request of the Group of 20 major nations, included the three European countries on a list of offshore financial centers or tax havens.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker called the inclusion of his country “a bit incomprehensible,” according to an Agence France-Press story Friday.

If Luxembourg was put on any international list of tax havens, Juncker said Nevada, Delaware and Wyoming should also be named and shamed as offshore financial centers.

But Miller rejected the Juncker’s claim.

“The prime minister is clearly under intense scrutiny and understandably trying to deflect blame,” Miller said in a statement. “There is a significant distinction, however, between Nevada’s pro-business legal framework and jurisdictions that provide high levels of banking secrecy.

“Nevada is proud of its status as a premier business filing jurisdiction,” he added. “And that status should never be confused with a lack of transparency in some international banking jurisdictions.”

Daniel Burns, communications director for Gov. Jim Gibbons, took a similar position.

“Nevada is not a tax haven,” Burns said. “We have a very attractive tax climate that makes it a good place to do business.”

Burns said he had not heard that secrecy about Nevada corporate owners had become a national issue, noting that he had lived in the state 20 years.

“I’ve never heard anything that you’re talking about,” Burns said.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations three years ago, however, questioned a deputy secretary of state from Nevada, a Delaware official and others about laws that allow corporations to withhold the identity of their owners.

An official told the subcommittee that the Internal Revenue Service was considering “mass audits” of Nevada corporations that do not file tax returns. An IRS official late Friday did not immediately know whether the agency conducted the audits.

In August 2007, the Justice Department asked a federal judge in St. Louis to stop the Asset Protection Group of Las Vegas from continuing a scheme to help taxpayers cheat the IRS.

The following year, a federal judge found that the Asset Protection Group and two partners were in contempt of court for violating a previous order that barred them from engaging in the asset-protection business.

The answer to the question in the first paragraph: Nevada and the three European countries each have populations of less than 10 million.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

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