The world’s super-rich are regularly asked by banks and insurance companies to show proof of supporting income, property and pension fund holdings, according to Vanity Fair.
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The magazine says the banks and insurers are sending requests for high-level proof through pacesetting corporations such as Knight Frank and Savills. These, in turn, are forwarding requests to the wealthy’s various advisers and lawyers, the business publication says.
The US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously sent out a letter after receiving “a wealth-management questionnaire” in 2011. A year earlier, Donald Trump’s business adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had to send out a letter responding to an inquiry by a US bank about his rental, directorship and stock ownership by the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
“Mr Spencer is in full compliance with all applicable laws, including rules of conduct for residents of the United States and its territories,” Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, wrote to the bank.
The magazine’s article says the wealth-management requests are now seen as a “canary in the mine”. While most people rely on tax credits and investments to reduce or offset their liabilities, the super-rich need to show bank statements, wealth statements and company books.
Vanity Fair said: “The Bancorp query in particular was seen in the industry as the most powerful signal sent to aspiring heirs that failure to fill in this form is akin to breaking the law.
“In the event of a family member’s death, for example, executors must be reminded of the forms.
“The notion is to make it hard for the heirs to avoid paying tax on part of their income. Because there’s a long list of the super-rich who might owe some tax on income stemming from less-legal activities, the tax pressure is intense.”
Luxury giant Mercedes-Benz is said to have set up an email address to which wealthy people can send their proof to take up tax matters, Vanity Fair said. This number is no longer available.
Such requests, though a new phenomenon, are not unprecedented. Madonna revealed in 2012 that she had given the Social Security administration a detailed list of her assets – even some of her drug and alcohol past – in order to make her tax payments.
And billionaire George Soros claimed this week that rich people were being forced to bribe the taxman. He told the German weekly magazine Bunte: “In the past you could just have given an envelope of cash to the tax office, but now the tax office tells you to bribe them, and that’s illegal. It’s outrageous! They even bribe judges.”
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The Mail on Sunday reported that one single US taxpayer was asked for $500,000 (£385,000) by the taxman and $25m (£19m) by the US justice department for unpaid taxes.
The Forbes founder and editor-in-chief, Steve Forbes, told the magazine: “The biggest threat to tax burden is not socialism, it’s crony capitalism. That means the big banks and media conglomerates, companies that have built empires on money that came from taxpayers.”
The central bank of the Seychelles has reportedly sent an email to the bank accounts of hundreds of well-heeled citizens advising them to fill in the forms.