‘[T]he old tax havens have no place in this new world. We now call on all countries to apply international standards,’ said Gordon Brown back in 2009 when he was prime minister. Mr Steerpike only mentions this because Brown’s philanthropist wife Sarah has made an odd choice of home for her charity.
Sarah Brown is the founder and Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education – a charitable organisation whose members include heavyweights such as Accenture, Chevron and Tata. The organisation admirably aims to bring ‘the business community together to accelerate progress in delivering quality education for all of the world’s children and youth.’
But the GBCfE is based in one of the most secretive tax jurisdictions in the world – Delaware, a state affectionately known by tax lawyers of Mr S’s acquaintance as ‘the Cayman Islands of North America’.
The charity’s registered office is 1209 North Orange Street, a single story building which is the legal address of 285,000 businesses according to the New York Times. That New York Times profile said that 1209 North Orange Street is home to ‘big corporations, small-time businesses, rogues, scoundrels and worse’. It was, for example, a business address of disgraced American businessman Timothy S. Durham, known as ‘the Midwest Madoff’, who was convicted of a $207 million fraud last year.
What might have drawn Sarah Brown to such an infamous site in so controversial a state? And is there enough desk-space at 1209 to house more than a quarter of a million tenants?
Mr S dreams of the day when British prime ministers are not duped by American presidents into criticising our low tax financial centres; it’s just a ruse to divert attention from, and more business to, American havens. Besides, Sarah Brown should be more patriotic and back the British tax system, which treats recognised charities very generously indeed.