Biz Hist Coll: 26 January 2021

How to Start an Early Modern Tax Haven: Smuggling, Fraud and Global Business in Eighteenth-century Britain

Date: 26/01/2021 @ 16:00 hrs London

Speaker:  David Chan Smith (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Follow David here: @davidchansmith
Moderator: Nicholas Wong (Nortumbria University, Newcastle)
Register here. Abstract below.


Tired of paying high customs duties recently introduced by the government? Looking for a competitive advantage in overseas markets or to access other imperial trading systems? This talk investigates the emergence of early modern tax havens around Britain. Tax havens are often assumed to be a modern phenomenon that responded to the establishment of corporate and income taxes. Yet traders in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made creative and routine use of the jurisdictional peculiarities that existed within Europe. Local and national elites who saw these havens as sources of income sponsored these efforts even though they frequently involved fraud and smuggling. This talk will survey the functioning of the early modern tax avoidance system around Britain, explore the development of these havens and the response of central government. To illustrate its arguments, the paper examines a case study of the Isle of Man and its establishment in the 1720s as a tax avoidance hub in the Atlantic slave trade.