Apropos Tom’s blog about his acquaintance’s low tax rate in Switzerland, I would like to point out that most people are under the misconception that Switzerland is a tax haven vis-à-vis having no income taxes. On the contrary, Switzerland has income taxes—but if you are very wealthy and want to expatriate there you can negotiate with the canon you live in as to what your tax rate will be. That’s why so many rich people move there. Here is an excerpt from an interview that Canadian singer/songwriter Shania Twain did with the insufferable Larry King in which she discusses why she lives in Canada. (Keep in mind that Canada, unlike the United States, does not charge its citizens income tax on any money they earn while they live outside of Canada. As an example, a Canadian citizen living in tax-free Monaco would owe zero income taxes to Canada if he made his living as a doctor in Monaco.)
KING: We’re back with Shania Twain, the top-selling female recording artist of all-time. Now why does a native Canadian girl from the wilds of Canada, recording in Nashville, live in Switzerland?
TWAIN: Oh, good. Well, Switzerland doesn’t look all that different from parts of Canada. [emphasis mine] It’s very beautiful — winters, I love the snow.
KING: Why not Canada?
TWAIN: Why not Canada? That’s a good question, but you know, I needed space and privacy. [There's no space in Canada? I watched the original interview. You could tell that she was sort of uncomfortable answering this question, that's why I have a hunch that she moved to Switzerland because she probably negotiated a much lower tax rate than she would have had to pay if she lived in "beautiful" Canada.]
KING: How’d you find this place? You’re in a castle, right?
TWAIN: Yes. Well, it’s a mansion. I mean, it’s not a castle.
KING: How many rooms?
TWAIN: It’s a chateau but that giant place is a castle so everybody thinks it’s a castle. I don’t really know how many — around 20, but that includes bathrooms.
KING: Three people need 20 rooms?
TWAIN: No, we don’t need 20 rooms, at all. It’s way bigger than what we wanted, but I needed space for my horses — they don’t live in the house, but I needed a property that had space for the horses.
KING: Now, how…
TWAIN: A lot of the bigger properties there are big homes.
KING: Isn’t hard to live in Switzerland and tour in America, and record, and raise a child?
TWAIN: No, because I have an international career, which takes me everywhere anyway. So, it doesn’t really matter where I live.
Again, my hunch could be totally off base. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I am right.11:54 am on November 12, 2009 Email David Kramer