Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking forward to Taxodus

Femke Herregraven

Femke Herregraven is a Dutch designer who recently gave a presentation at, together with Siem Eikelenboom and Gaby de Groot. She was one of 8 groups that presented plans as a result of a 3 month workshop organised by the Sandberg Design Centre and the Netherlands Media Fund. I attended the presentation on June 7th.

 Femke presented a project called Taxodus, an online game where you're given so much money by your client and your task is to invest offshore for maximum profit. Note that the project has passed the project proposal phase, but has not yet been commissioned. Below is a Google translation of their Dutch text.

At the moment the Taxodus website is in standby mode. Hope it become reality soon.

Taxodus - Approximately 50% of world trade passes through tax havens and 83 of the 100 largest multinationals in the Netherlands for tax reasons. Flows seek the path of least resistance - but what are those roads in the year 2012? When we often think of tax havens with bank secrecy countries where celebrities mafiosi parking their money. British investigative journalist Nicholas Shaxson with his recent book, Treasure Islands, however, demonstrated that this offshore system not "exotic sideshow" but the very core of our global economy. They are the rich OECD countries like U.S., UK, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands are the largest players in the offshore system - they provide numerous opportunities for multinationals to escape financial regulation in their own country. Still, extent and impact of this offshore system long remained under the radar. Firstly because there is much discussion about the term 'tax haven' politically very sensitive. Secondly, because we only just snapshots of the offshore system see, there is little insight into its present geography.

Taxodus is an online game that tries to bring change here. Based on existing data such as tax treaties and tax regimes between countries is a strategic landscape design. Players choose a multinational company or bank on whose behalf they attempt to evade the most tax. By using letterbox companies worldwide to set up business with banks as well as lobbying local politicians, the player lays bare the potential to escape financial regulation. The game is free to play, but at the end of every game played, the tax route taken using Taxodus is uploaded (anonymously) to the database. Firstly it acts as a database of the highest score which player has evaded taxes. But it also acts as a public database of potential routes for each multinational. We think its a useful starting point for a journalist to investigate and verify what routes are really plausible and which not.

The avoidance of taxes is not an exception but the norm. It has a powerful shadow economic system created that Shaxson omschijft as "the secret underpinnning for the political and financial power of Wall Street today". The purpose of Taxodus is connected by means of the crowd-sourcing this hidden offshore system and thus to give it a public face.

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