While we wait for Harold Ford to explain how he's avoided filing a New York tax return while working in New York, he's preparing to jet off for Bermuda. To address a group that lobbies for tax evaders, er, avoiders.
Shadow New York Senate candidate Harold Ford spent all week mushing through the snow pretending to know where he lives. But next month he'll be relaxing in the warm sun of Bermuda and speaking to a group that works to preserve the small island as a haven for American companies looking to avoid paying taxes, without all that stigma of being a "tax haven."
On March 4, Ford is slated to be the keynote speaker at the Bermuda International Business Association's annual meeting, to be held at the luxury Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel (pictured below). He'll talk, according to a BIBA press release, about "the challenges and opportunities that face America and how Bermuda can play a vital role in the U.S. and global economy."
The vital role that Bermuda currently plays in the U.S. economy is that it doesn't tax corporations, which may explain why nearly a third of foreign profits reported by U.S. corporations in 2003 came from Bermuda and two other low-tax countries, and why 13,000 international corporations, most of them American, are headquartered there. It's sort of like an international version of Tennessee, which doesn't have a personal income tax, and which is where Ford presumably claimed to have lived for the past three years while he made money in New York without filing a state income tax return.
BIBA's primary argument seems to be that Bermuda is not a "tax haven" (which sounds bad) but merely has a "favorable tax structure" (good!). Here's how BIBA's former chairman described companies who set up a Bermuda P.O. Box in 2002 to a Knight Ridder reporter:
"It's not tax evasion," said Raymond Medeiros, past chairman of the Bermuda International Business Association and a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "No one is doing anything illicit or criminal not to pay taxes. It's tax avoidance, and that's legitimate."
And it actually clears up a little matter in Ford's legislative record. Ford voted to "end offshore tax havens" in 2004 as a congressman, which would make him a strange choice for BIBA's keynote speaker. But it's clear that he's all for tax avoidance, which is totally cool. Meanwhile, now Ford has fewer taxes to worry about avoiding — he's been suspended as an MSNBC analyst while he mulls his Senate bid to avoid conflicts of interest.