Special event: documentary film screening April 26th

Spidersweb-poster-HighRes300dpi_03The Jesus College Graduate Society (MCR) and Jesus College Intellectual Forum are co-hosting a special documentary film screening of “The Spider’s Web: An investigation into the world of Britain’s secrecy jurisdictions and the City of London”. A discussion and wine reception will follow special with guest speakers: producer John Christensen and Michael Oswald, as well as professor Jason Sharman. Chairing the event will be professor Barry Rider, an established expert on economic crime. Event is free and open to members of the University. For additional information please contact May at hmh46@cam.ac.uk




DATE/TIME:     THURSDAY APRIL 26, 2018 at 17:30 – 20:00

LOCATION:     JESUS COLLEGE BREWERY ROOM (below Roost Café/Bar in West Court)

MORE INFO:            http://spiderswebfilm.com or e-mail hmh46@cam.ac.uk

 The Spiders Web: Britains Second Empire, is a documentary film that shows how Britain transformed from a colonial power into a global financial power. At the demise of empire, City of London financial interests created a web of offshore secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it behind obscure financial structures in a web of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth may be hidden in British offshore jurisdictions and Britain and its offshore jurisdictions are the largest global players in the world of international finance. How did this come about, and what impact does it have on the world today? This is what the Spiders Web sets out to investigate.

With contributions from leading experts, academics, former insiders and campaigners for social justice, the use of stylized broll and archive footage, the Spiders Web reveals how in the world of international finance, corruption and secrecy have prevailed over regulation and transparency, and the UK is right at the heart of this.


May Hen, PhD Student, University of Cambridge


Barry Rider – PROFESSORIAL FELLOW, CENTRE OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES – In addition to teaching law at the University of Cambridge since 1976 Barry has also held numerous public service appointments including Head of the Commonwealth Commercial Crime Unit and Assistant Director (Legal) in the Commonwealth Secretariat. He has also worked for the IMF, as counsel and has been a consultant to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Financial Services Board, European Union and various UN and regional organisations. He has also practiced law as a barrister, government lawyer (in various jurisdictions) and with the City law firm Beachcroft LLP and the US international law firm Bryan Cave LLP. In recent years his principal clients have been the Kuwait Investment Authority and the People’s Bank of China. He also is the Co-Chairman of the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime.


John ChristensenPRODUCER, INVESTIGATIVE ECONOMIST AND ACTIVIST is the co-founder and executive director of the Tax Justice Network. His investigations into the role of tax havens in the globalised economy started in 1978, and have included fourteen years working on the tax haven of Jersey. He is a vocal critic of tax havens and is today described as Jersey’s most prominent dissident.

Michael OswaldDIRECTOR AND PRODUCER – is an independent documentary filmmaker based in London UK. He uses narrative storytelling to produce investigative and observational films. He aims to discover, understand and communicate ideas that are given less attention than they deserve. Previous films include 97% Owned: How is Money Created and Princes of the Yen: Central Banks and the Transformation of the Economy.

Jason SharmanPROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSis the Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge. Sharman’s research interests range from the study of international corruption, money laundering and tax havens, to the global politics of the early modern world.


2017 in Review

While 2017 was quiet on the blog-front, it was very active for our weekly tax discussion group. In 2017 we held 31 meetings around the University of Cambridge during term-time. We also hosted a large number of visiting speakers ranging from King’s College London to the University of Zagreb, Croatia and the University of Bergen, Norway! Participants ranged from visiting professors, undergraduates, graduates and practitioners in law, economics, sociology and political science. Here are a few photos and highlights of the year:

In February 2017 we hosted a graduate formal dinner in Jesus College where we had an opportunity to socialize informally. Above are photos of some of our group at pre-drinks, dinner and in the Jesus College Middle Combination Room (MCR) or graduate lounge.

In July we had two major events. The first was our second annual garden party where we invited members of the University and larger tax community to join us in our weekly tax discussion followed by an outdoor garden party. There was plenty of talk, treats and of course a garden party staple, Pimms.

We also had the pleasure of hosting 20 tax students from Curtin Law School in Perth Western Australia led by Professor Annette Morgan on July 11th, 2017. As part of their 3rd International Tax Study Tour, taking in Singapore, London, Paris, New York and Washington DC, the undergraduate and graduate students majoring in taxation spent the day with us at the University of Cambridge learning about the UK and EU taxation systems, and current topical areas of taxation. They also had some time to hear about what some members of our tax group, PhD students in Cambridge, were researching in the area of taxation.

We began the morning with welcome introductions from the Jesus College Intellectual Forum who graciously provided the venue and facilities to host the students. We then followed with some background of some members of our tax group and the work we were individually doing. After that, we split into small groups so that students could experience what our weekly tax discussions were like. That week we involved them in reviewing Hans Gribnau’s (Eds.) new book “Building Trust in Taxation.” Each student had the opportunity to skim through a chapter, make comments on areas of interest, and linked it to current events or contemporary tax issues. We then spent the remainder of the day having a larger group discussion of the issues brought up in the book.

Between discussions, our members also travelled around the world presenting their work at conferences and even doing extended studies in other universities. PhD law student Matteo Mantovani spent a semester at Harvard Law School conducting advanced research on VAT. And PhD sociology student May Hen conducted fieldwork in the Cayman Islands. She also presented some of her research at the Department of Justice, Tax Division.

Photo of the venue (Jesus College, Cambridge) where our workshop on “Is tax avoidance more relevant than tax evasion?” took place for the 35th Cambridge Economic Crime Symposium. The week-long event drew 1,500 participants from over 120 countries. Our talk proceeded this panel.

Finally, our members Peter Allen and May Hen led a workshop panel at the 35th Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime in September 2017 where panelists including HMRC debated the topic “Is tax avoidance more relevant now than tax evasion?”

2017-07-04 17.12.45Last but not least, founding Tax Discussion Group member Chris Jenkins successfully defended his PhD dissertation and has moved back (temporarily we hope) to New Zealand. Congratulations Chris and we look forward to seeing where the winds take you!

Our weekly meetings will begin again next week. As always, we will keep our “Meetings” page up-to-date as well as our events section. We look forward to 2018 and welcoming you to our weekly discussion groups. As always, they are open to anyone!

New year, new meetings!

We have a new term upon us. The Cambridge Tax Discussion Group is beginning it’s third year and we have an exciting line-up of speakers and events. This page will be updated shortly so do keep an eye out. Also, we keep our “Meetings” page updated regularly so do take a look there for our next meeting location/date/time! If you would like to be added to our weekly mailing list, please send an e-mail to May at hmh46@cam.ac.uk



You are invited: Cambridge.tax Garden Party!

We are hosting our annual garden party in Jesus College July 5th from 13:00-15:00. We will have our weekly discussion group meeting in Jesus Roost Cafe at 12:00 followed by the garden party in Chapel Court. Both discussion group and garden party is open to all and we would encourage you to circulate this invitation to any one you think might be interested in meeting with our group in this informal and beautiful setting in Cambridge.

Please RSVP to May Hen at hmh46@cam.ac.uk

Summary of “Offshore financial transactions” course in the Cayman Islands – By May Hen

Like a good sociologist, May Hen blends herself in with the Texas A&M law school cohort. (Photo credit: Thomas Sims of Texas A&M.)

Hi all, May Hen here. I am a PhD student in Sociology at Cambridge and currently in the Cayman Islands conducting fieldwork on the economic sociology of offshore and economic history of Cayman. I had the pleasure of taking part in one of the most interesting courses I have ever come across on offshore financial centres co-organized by Texas A&M University School of Law and The University of Alabama Law School. Led by Andrew Morris, Dean of Law at Texas A&M, this course has been well established. It is in it’s 13th year in Cayman with a new course being rolled out in Jersey this year; I have also been informed that a similar course is also being offered in Vermont (home to the largest number of captive insurance domiciles). This course provided students with little to no understanding of how an offshore financial centre functions with a full immersion week of interaction with the Cayman Islands financial industry and its individual sectors. For those of you interested in some academic reading on offshore, Morriss’ “Creating Cayman as an Offshore Financial Centre: Structure & Strategy Since 1960” on Cayman will help preface the intent of the course which was to shed light on the actual day-to-day activities of the financial industry in Cayman.

All of the presenters were industry leaders in their area in Cayman and each presentation came with a series of expert slides from different sectors of each major area of the financial industry including asset securitization, captive insurance, hedge funds, trusts, insurance linked securities and private equity. The speakers did an excellent job in explaining their industry to us and how their industry would benefit American law firms. What I found most compelling was the extent to which Cayman provides a support role to the overall financial system, particularly in the U.S with hedge funds and captive insurance. What was also most interesting to me was the sheer number of different agents that are required in a financial large transaction, sometimes up to 20 intermediaries from start to finish. Having the transaction explained from the Cayman perspective provided an invaluable and unique understanding of something we may normally understand from an onshore jurisdiction like the U.S..  It has also been interesting to get feedback from the students who had little to no knowledge of Cayman before they arrived. Hopefully those interested in the Cayman Islands will sign up for this course offered annually by Texas A&M next spring. Also kudos to Americans and their ability to merchandise things, you would not see a course providing beer coozies in the U.K.!

“The Appeal of Tax!” – By May Hen

In September 2016, members of the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group participated in a plenary at the 34th Annual Cambridge Economic Crime Symposium held at Jesus College. During our weekly meetings leading up to the conference, a topic was chosen by interested participants in the group and “The criminalization of tax avoidance” was proposed to stimulate debate. We decided to produce a series of working papers in response to Richard Gordon and Andrew Morriss’ article “Moving Money: International Financial Flows, Taxes, & Money Laundering” (Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 1) and invited the co-authors to Cambridge to take part in the debate. The result was an interesting mix of responses from panelists from the OECD, U.S. Department of Justice,  Department of Sociology, Faculty of Law, and Department of Economics from Cambridge.

A resulting editorial commentary by myself, May Hen, was published in the Journal of Money Laundering Control and a larger series is being put together by participants to be published as a special issue this year. It is hoped that this forthcoming issue will serve as a central stimulant for further debate at the 35th Annual Cambridge Economic Crime Symposium surrounding current tax issues. If you are interested in taking part this year in either the special issue or Economic Crime Symposium, please contact me at hmh46@cam.ac.uk