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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Clinton and Trump share business address in tax haven Delaware

© Wikimedia Commons | The offices of Corporation Trust Centre in Wilmington, Delaware, where both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have registered companies

Text by Sam BALL
Latest update : 2016-04-26

#Hillary_Clinton and #Donald_Trump will both be hoping to take a step closer to the White House as Delaware votes in its primary Tuesday. But the two share another link to the state: they both have businesses registered there – and at the same address.

Revealed by the UK's Guardian newspaper on Monday, both Clinton and Trump, leaders in the race for the presidential nominations for the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, are owners of businesses registered at the offices of Corporation Trust Centre (CTC) – a nondescript two-storey building in the city of Wilmington.
They are not the only ones. Some 285,000 companies including the likes of Apple, American Airlines, Coca-Cola and Walmart are also registered at the 1209 North Orange Street office building, in a state notorious for its financial loophole that has helped tens of thousands of businesses avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes.
Clinton's company, ZFS Holdings LLC, was registered at the CTC's address in February 2013 – shortly after the former first lady stepped down as US secretary of state – a search of a business directory on the Delaware state government's website reveals.
Clinton's tax returns show that she uses ZFS to manage the earnings she receives through her public speaking and book royalties – for which she earned more than $16 million in 2014.
Her husband and former president Bill Clinton also has a company registered at the address, named WJC LLC, set up in 2008 and used to collect payment for his consultation work.
Trump's 378 Delaware-based companies
Several companies owned by Republican frontrunner Trump sit within the same offices as those officially used by the Clintons. They include Trump International Management Corp and several companies that form part of Hudson Waterfront Associates, a Trump partnership to develop luxury condos in Manhattan, the Guardian reported.
The revelations could be particularly embarrassing for Clinton, who has promised to crack down on tax havens in the wake of the "Panama Papers" leak.
She recently blasted the "outrageous" practices used by the wealthy to hide funds offshore and promised to "shut down the so-called private tax system for the mega-wealthy".
A spokesman for Clinton told the Guardian that "no federal, state, or local taxes were saved by the Clintons" as a result of their companies registered in Delaware.
Trump, meanwhile, is quite content with his Delaware dealings. In fact, according to the man himself, he has a total of 378 companies registered in the US' second-smallest state.
"We have 378 entities registered in the state of Delaware, meaning I pay you a lot of money, folks," he told a campaign rally in the state on Friday. "I don’t feel at all guilty, OK?”
The Delaware 'loophole'
Delaware's reputation as an "onshore" tax haven is well known thanks to its low taxes, corporate anonymity laws and the ease with which businesses and individuals can set up shell companies in the state – a completely legal process.
Delaware's Division of Corporations website boasts that "the State of Delaware is a leading domicile for US and international corporations".
It says that, in a state of just 945,000 people, more than one million businesses are there.
"More than 50 per cent of all publicly-traded companies in the United States including 64 per cent of the Fortune 500 have chosen Delaware as their legal home," says the website.
While businesses might not register in Delaware specifically for the purpose of paying less tax, doing so allows them to exploit a complicated piece of tax law known as the "Delaware loophole".
As Delaware collects zero tax on income relating to "intangible assets" such as intellectual property like trademarks or patents, corporations can use shell or holding companies to shift their state tax liability to Delaware and avoid paying substantial amounts of tax in their home states.
Companies such as CTC act as agents to help corporations do this and offer them the use of a physical address in the state.
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, this loophole costs other states a combined $9.5 billion (€8.4 billion) in lost tax revenue every ten years. It calculates a company can lower their effective tax rate by anywhere from 15 to 24 percent by registering in Delaware, saving the average firm between $3 million and $4 million annually.
Delaware 'dwarfs Panama' as tax haven
The revelations included in the Panama Papers have focused global attention on the use of tax havens by the wealthy.
But while locations such as Panama, the Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands have drawn scrutiny, some tax campaigners have called for US politicians to address problems closer to home.
"More than beautiful beaches and attractive tax-free shopping – Panama and Delaware are both go-to destinations when shopping for secrecy," anti-corruption campaign groups Transparency International said earlier this month.
"But Delaware actually dwarfs Panama when it comes to shady business – it’s home to thousands of secret companies and US laws make it so that the public can’t know whose behind them. Drug dealers, terrorists, the corrupt – you name it."
Delaware is one of five US states voting in primaries on Tuesday. The latest Gravis poll for the state show both Clinton and Trump are on course.

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