After all: Engineer's guide to � tax havens

E&T comes up with an easy-to-digest guide to tax havens for engineers.

I had a call from an engineer friend of mine who had just been made redundant. Contrary to what I expected, he was fairly upbeat about it. "At last I'll have an excuse to do something I always wanted to - travel the world in search of a nice place where I could retire," he said, and added that during his 25-year-long engineering career he had saved some money and was wondering how and where to invest it.

"Why are you calling me then?" I enquired. "My knowledge of investment markets is even worse than my command of Amharic language of which I don't speak a single word…"

"Doesn't matter," he said. "As a compulsive traveller you should be able to put together a short list of the world's tax havens. Only do it as if you were an engineer: none of the usual guide-book rubbish. Just tell me how they work and why one should or shouldn't go here or there. Pros and cons - nothing else. I'll then process the information and take an informed decision…"

This is how I came up with this brief Engineer's Guide to Tax Havens. NB: RTG stands for a 'reason to go'; RNTG - for a 'reason not to go'.

Liechtenstein

RTGs: Liechtenstein has one of the lowest tax rates in the world. Its main export going to over a hundred countries is false teeth of all imaginable shapes and sizes - from baby's milk teeth to Dracula's fangs - and in 16 different colours. The teeth are produced by the country's biggest employer, Ivoclar factory.

Liechtenstein is also the world's only state where one can be on the Diet without fasting (see below).

RNTG: If, enticed by all those false teeth and sausage skins (Liechtenstein's other major export item), you decide to stay in the country for good, you'll be in for a disappointment. Getting Liechtenstein citizenship is a cumbersome procedure. First of all, a referendum must be held in the village or town where you have resided for at least 25 years (!) and now want to settle; if the decision is positive, the matter is taken for vote by the Diet, the principality's parliament, and then (again, if the Diet says yes) it has to be confirmed in person by the ruling Prince Hans Adam II - Europe's last fully-functioning and potent monarch.

Guernsey

RTG: The knowledge that Guernsey was part of the Duchy of Normandy in 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded England, which can therefore be regarded as Guernsey's oldest colony, should be appealing to sensitive and politically correct English visitors who feel ashamed for their country's imperial past and would be happy to know that England itself had been colonised before becoming an empire.

RNTG (applies to male knitters alone): According to an ancient law which is still in force, Guernsey men are banned from knitting during the months of August and September. This is, allegedly, due to the fact that their ancestors liked knitting so much that they used to leave crops to rot unharvested in the fields while pursuing their woolly passion. In short, no male knitters in August/September, yet nutters of both sexes are welcome all year round.

Isle of Man

RTGs: It costs less to send a letter from the Isle of Man to the UK (of which it is not a part) than it costs to send first class letters within the UK, and mail leaving the Isle of Man automatically enters the first class stream of the UK's Royal Mail. So bring lots of letters with you and post them from the island!

RNTGs: The Isle of Man still retains some peculiar regulations of its own. The Manx are allowed to drive at 16, breath tests are illegal, seat belts are not compulsory and there are no speed limits. No wonder the famous TT motor race is held there. But unless you are Lewis Hamilton, driving on the island is probably not a good idea.

Bermuda

RTG: Bermuda has nothing (apart from the name) in common with the infamous Bermuda Triangle where ships and planes disappear without a trace and which, in actual fact, is not a triangle for it doesn't have any definite shape or location.

RNTGs: Because of the absence of an absolute location, the possibility of the Bermuda Triangle moving towards Bermuda and coinciding with it in location (even if temporarily) cannot be excluded.

The Cayman Islands

RTG: On the archipelago's largest island, Grand Cayman, there is a town called Hell. It has a post office from where you can send a 'postcard from Hell' to all your friends and loved ones who would be all very pleased with the fact that you've finally ended up in the place where they thought you always belonged.

RNTGs: There is not a single ATM on Little Cayman, the archipelago's smallest island, and only one on another island - Cayman Brac.

Barbados

RTG: The world's oldest rum, Mount Gay (not to be confused with Brokeback Mountain), comes from Barbados.

RNTG: Barbados has never been successfully invaded by foreigners (if not to count the Brits, of course). Besides, the island is rather prone to gales and hurricanes.

Gibraltar

R (or rather 230 reasons) TG: Gibraltar is the only location in Europe where you will find free-roaming Barbary macaques, all 230 of them - the Rock's main tourist attraction.

R (or rather 230 reasons) NTG: It was reported in 2008 that a pack of 25 Barbary macaques had run riot on a beach, broken into hotel rooms and been caught scavenging in bins in the town centre. The authorities of Gibraltar are now considering culling their main tourist attraction in all its fluffy and unruly 230 manifestations.

British Virgin Islands

RTG: It is a British overseas territory, and HM Queen Elizabeth II is the official Head of State.

RNTGs: US dollars are this British territory's official currency, electricity is 110 AC voltage as in the US, and only hard-to-obtain American two-pin plugs fit the local electric sockets.

The Bahamas

RTG (particularly if you are a flamingo): On one of the islands, Great Inagua, the ration of flamingos to people is 61:1.

RNTG: Some peculiar and rather off-putting island names… Would you fancy ending up - even if briefly - on Ragged Island, Crooked Island, Conception Island (albeit some couples probably would), to say nothing of Hog Island now renamed Paradise Island?

The Netherlands Antilles

RTG: A good reason to go (and fast) is that the Federation of the Netherlands Antilles (the country's official name) is to be dissolved in 2010, at which point the country will cease to exist.

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