Offshore financial centre

An offshore financial centre or OFC is defined as a "country or jurisdiction that provides financial services to nonresidents on a scale that is incommensurate with the size and the financing of its domestic economy."[lower-alpha 1][4]

IFSC, Dublin, Ireland. Ireland is a top-five conduit OFC, the largest global tax haven,[1][2] and the third-largest OFC shadow banking centre.[3]

"Offshore" does not refer to the location of the OFC, since many Financial Stability ForumIMF OFCs, such as Luxembourg and Hong Kong, are located "onshore", but to the fact that the largest users of the OFC are nonresident, i.e. "offshore".[lower-alpha 2] The IMF lists OFCs as a third class of financial centre, with international financial centres (IFCs), and regional financial centres (RFCs); there is overlap (e.g. Singapore is an RFC and an OFC).

Ugland House, the Cayman Islands. The Caribbean, including the Caymans, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda, has several major sink OFCs, is both the second largest global tax haven (in aggregate),[2] and the largest OFC shadow banking centre.[3]

During April–June 2000, the Financial Stability ForumInternational Monetary Fund produced the first list of 42–46 OFCs using a qualitative approach. In April 2007, the IMF produced a revised quantitative-based list of 22 OFCs,[lower-alpha 3] and in June 2018, another revised quantitative-based list of eight major OFCs, who are responsible for 85% of OFC financial flows, which include Ireland, the Caribbean,[lower-alpha 4] Luxembourg, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Netherlands.[5] The removal of currency and capital controls, the early driver for the creation and use of many OFCs in the 1960s and 1970s,[lower-alpha 5] saw taxation and/or regulatory regimes become the primary reasons for using OFCs from the 1980s on.[4] Progress from 2000 onwards from IMFOECDFATF initiatives on common standards, regulatory compliance, and banking transparency, has significantly weakened the regulatory attraction of OFCs. Academics now consider OFCs to be synonymous with tax havens,[6][5] with a particular focus on corporate tax planning BEPS tools, tax-neutral[lower-alpha 6] asset structuring vehicles, and shadow banking/asset securitization.

Spuerkeess Bank HQ, Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the second largest Sink OFC, the sixth largest global tax haven,[2] and the second largest OFC shadow banking centre.[3]

Research in 2013–14 showed OFCs harboured 8–10% of global wealth in tax-neutral structures, and acted as hubs for U.S. multinationals in particular, to avoid corporate taxes via base erosion and profit shifting ("BEPS") tools (e.g. the double Irish). A study in July 2017, Conduit and Sink OFCs, split the understanding of an OFC into 24 Sink OFCs (e.g. traditional tax havens, to which a disproportionate amount of value disappears from the economic system), and five Conduit OFCs (e.g. modern corporate tax havens, through which a disproportionate amount of value moves toward the Sink OFCs). In June 2018, research showed that OFCs had become the dominant locations for corporate tax avoidance BEPS schemes, costing US$200 billion in lost annual tax revenues. A June 2018 joint-IMF study showed much of the FDI from OFCs, into higher-tax countries, originated from higher-tax countries (e.g. the UK is the second largest investor in itself, via OFCs).[5][7]