Histoire contemporaine européenne

Archaeology of a Treasure Island: Actors and Practices of Holding Companies in Luxembourg (1929–1940)

Tax avoidance has become a hotly discussed topic. These debates have been informed by academic research done by social scientists. Historians, relative latecomers in the field, argue for a greater consideration of the interwar period so as to understand the pathway dependencies of the infrastructures used for tax dodging practices today. This article explores the question of how Luxembourg became, in the 1930s, an important node in the network of legal re-coding of capital for tax shopping purposes. The Holding Act of 1929 offered legal security but was vague enough to foster a fiscal bricolage that allowed notaries, banks and lawyers to serve a heterogeneous group of people eager to pay less tax. Concealing the real beneficiaries of the holding while at the same publicising the opportunities of the legal coding proved to be a complementary process.

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