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Robert Farley
By Robert Farley November 20, 2009

Chain e-mail claims Obama closed offshore tax safe havens

We got a chain e-mail recently that purports to list 90 accomplishments from President Barack Obama's first six months in office.

Unlike most chain e-mails we get, this one was signed by its author, Robert Watson, a professor of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Watson said he spoke last spring at Democratic political clubs and was asked by some members to compile the list as talking points to balance some of the claims about the Obama administration coming from Republicans. The list has since gone viral, and now Watson fields several calls and e-mails every day challenging him on some of the entries.

We decided to look into a handful of items on the list to see if they check out.

Here, we look at No. 46, that Obama "closed offshore tax safe havens."

On May 4, 2009, the White House issued a detailed, six-page plan to curb overseas tax havens and remove tax incentives for companies to shift jobs overseas. The plan to "get tough" on overseas tax havens included eliminating loopholes for certain offshore subsidiaries; cracking down on the abuse of tax havens by individuals; and putting more resources into IRS enforcement to help close the international tax gap.

And in late October, the House and Senate introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009, which seeks to crack down on Americans hiding their assets in overseas tax havens.

The president promptly issued a statement in support of the legislation.

"Shortly after taking office, I laid out a set of proposals to crack down on illegal overseas tax evasion," Obama stated. "The legislation introduced today would fulfill that promise, putting a stop to billions of dollars worth of abuses. I look forward to working with Congress to turn these proposals into law so that honest Americans no longer shoulder the burden of the few individuals and businesses that put profit before responsibility."

Although the legislation enjoys the support of the White House, it is likely to face strong opposition from corporations that do considerable business overseas. According to a story in the New York Times , "about 200 companies and trade associations, including Microsoft Corp., General Electric Co. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, signed a letter stating that the proposed changes to the tax code would put them at a disadvantage with their rivals."

In other words, it's premature to put this one in the "Obama Accomplishments" column.

Watson acknowledged as much when we spoke to him on Nov. 19.

"The president started it, and Congress is now looking at it, but it's not a done deal," he said.

And so we rate this one Half True.

Our Sources

Chain e-mail, Obama’s 90 Accomplishments , by Robert Watson, a professor of American Studies at Lynn University

New York Times, "Obama Takes Aim at Offshore Tax Havens," by Jeff Zeleny, May 4, 2009

White House Web site, Statement by President Barack Obama on House and Senate Introducing Legislation to Crack Down on Overseas Tax Havens , Oct. 27, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Web site, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009

White House Web site, Press release: "Leveling the Playing Field: Curbing Tax Havens and Removing Tax Incentives For Shifting Jobs Overseas," May 4, 2009

WebCPA, "Rangel Bill Clamps Down on Unreported Foreign Income," by Ken Rankin, Nov. 9, 2009

Interview with Robert Watson, a professor of American Studies at Lynn Universit, Nov. 19, 2009

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Chain e-mail claims Obama closed offshore tax safe havens

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