Panama Papers Highlight Problem with Shell Companies

With the release of the Panama Papers and independent investigations into the prevalence of anonymous shell companies in Oregon, the evidence has proven too overwhelming for Sen. Ron Wyden to ignore. The senator acknowledges how close to home the issue hits, stating "(W)e have a problem with shell companies right here in our own backyard."

A shell company provides anonymity to its owner (or owners), allowing otherwise recognizable public figures, corporations and criminals to operate under the cloak of secrecy. They have been linked to various fraudulent activities including money laundering, tax evasion and global terror funding. These companies are often set up in countries known as "tax havens" due to their low tax rates and lax regulations, imposing an unfathomable cost on small business owners and everyday taxpayers. An Oxfam report found that in recent years the country's 50 largest corporations alone have held over $1 trillion in offshore shell companies -- robbing state governments of billions of dollars in tax revenue.

I own a print and design business in Portland. We don't use elaborate tax schemes to exploit a flawed tax code or break the law by using shell companies and offshore accounts to evade our taxes. For my shop to operate on a level playing field, taxes must be a shared responsibility and a cost of doing business.

Oregon is a place where only honest and transparent business owners are welcome. For anonymous shell corporations, we are closed for business.

Deborah Field, owner of Paperjam Press in NE Portland & Executive Team Member, Main Street Alliance of Oregon.