The Price We Pay, directed by Harold Crooks, exposes how “offshore” finance and Google, Amazon and the other tech giants of the “cloud” economy are eroding the foundations of the democratic state. The Price We Pay is inspired by Brigitte Alepin’s book «La Crise fiscale qui vient».Canada, 2014 | Color, Stereo
Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds under the Theatrical Documentary Program
Gouvernement du Québec (Crédit d’impôt cinéma et télévision - Gestion SODEC)
Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit
BRIGITTE ALEPIN, Harvard trained independent Canadian tax expert and policy advisor, parliamentary witness, and outspoken author of the best-selling Ces riches qui ne paient pas d’impôt (2004) and La Crise fiscale qui vient (2010). In this last book, she was one of the very first experts to warn of the dangers posed by 20th century tax regimes that are now out of date.
ANGUS CAMERON, political economist, University of Leicester, UK.
NICOLAS COLIN, Inspector of finance with the French Inspection générale des finances, author of a 2013 pathbreaking study for the French government on the fiscal challenges posed to tax authorities by global Internet companies of the digital [“cloud”] economy, co-author of L’Âge de la multitude.
ALAIN DENEAULT, philosopher and teacher of political science at Université de Montréal, author of Canada: A New Tax Haven.
STUART FRASER, former deputy policy chairman at the City of London Corporation that played a key role in the creation of tax havens as offshore financial centers at the end of the Second World War as a “second Empire”. Fraser once described himself as the “U.K.’s most powerful financial lobbyist”.
JAMES S. HENRY, lawyer, former chief economist at McKinsey & Co, Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, author of Blood Bankers and of widely cited 2012 study on the missing wealth of nations, The Price of Offshore Revisited, which estimates unreported private financial wealth held offshore was at least $21 trillion at end of 2010, a sum equivalent to combined size of US and Japanese economies.
DANIEL LEBÈGUE, technical adviser to the French Prime Minister's Cabinet in charge of economic and financial affairs in 1981, Director of Treasury from 1984 to 1987; former Banque Nationale de Paris CEO and Vice Chairman, and today Chairman of the board of Transparency International France that opposes tax havens.
RONEN PALAN, Professor of International Politics, City of London University, author of The Offshore World: Sovereign Markets, Virtual Places and Nomad Millionaires.
THOMAS PIKETTY, Paris School of Economics, winner of Le Monde’s prize for best young economist, the world's leading expert on income and wealth inequality, and high profile social commentator whose 2014 book, the 700 page Capitalism in the 21st century, is a publishing phenomenon that has rocketed to the top of Amazon’s book chart in the US and has established Piketty as one of today’s most influential economic thinkers on the subject of inequality.
RICHARD RAHN, former director, Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, former chief economist of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.
TIM RIDLEY, lawyer, former chairman, Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, former senior partner with Maples and Calder, the island’s leading law firm, and board member of the Cayman Islands subsidiary of the $173 billion hedge fund GlobeOp Financial Services.
SASKIA SASSEN, renowned sociologist, Columbia University and London School of Economics professor, prolific author of many books including The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. She is credited with coining the term “global city”.
NICHOLAS SHAXSON, journalist, author of Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World.
FATHER WILLIAM TAYLOR, Anglo-Catholic vicar of St Thomas Church in Hackney, recently elected as the first ever Labour councillor to the Corporation of the City of London borough council.
JOHN CHRISTENSEN, director of the Tax Justice Network, former economic advisor States of Jersey, a major European tax haven.
KRISHEN MEHTA, Senior Global Justice Fellow, Yale University, former partner PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world’s second largest accounting firm.
PASCAL SAINT-AMANS, head of tax policy at the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), the leading policy organization of the world’s 34 most advanced economies.
DAVID MARCHANT, investigative journalist and editor of Offshore Alert.
JACK BLUM, Washington attorney and chair of Tax Justice Network USA.
JARON LANIER, Microsoft computer scientist, Virtual reality pioneer, composer of classical music and author of Who Owns the Future?
WILLIAM BARCLAY, Chicago Political Economy Group, former senior vice-president, Chicago Stock Exchange, the third largest in the US.
WALLACE TURBEVILLE, Senior Fellow, Demos, New York City, former vice-president Goldman Sachs.
LORD ADAIR TURNER, Fellow, Institute of New Economic Thinking, former chairman (in 2008) of the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority.
LINDA MCAULIFFE, graphic artist from Vancouver.
SAM HOLLOWAY, Chicago firefighter.
“RIVETING, LUCID, ESSENTIAL.”
Christophe Alix, Libération
“CONCISE, ENGROSSING AND OCCASIONALLY INFURIATING…”
Joe Leyden, Variety
“A SUPERB COMPANION PIECE TO… INSIDE JOB.”
Geoff Olson, Vancouver Courier
“ONE OF THE STRONGEST DOCS OF THE YEAR, ONE THAT’S BOTH TIMELY AND HIGHLY PROVOCATIVE.”
Jason Gorber, Twitchfilm
Mark Achbar, Director, Sundance winning The Corporation
“PRAISE-WORTHY FOR MAKING SENSE OF THE ARCANE SUBJECT OF CORPORATE TAXES.”
Steven Frank, Bloomberg
“ESSENTIAL… WISE, CAPTIVATING (…) A TRUE CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE…. HAROLD CROOKS PROVES HIMSELF A GREAT CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTARIAN, WITH THE LIKES OF ERROL MORRIS.”
Luc Laporte-Rainville, Ciné-Bulles Magazine
Danièle Heymann, Marianne
“A STUNNING, NAIL-IT-TO-THE-WALL CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY WHERE BANKERS SPEAK UNINHIBITEDLY ABOUT TAX HAVENS AND TOP CELEBRITY ECONOMISTS LET IT ALL HANG OUT…”
Jean-Jacques Rue, Siné Mensuel
“WITH CLARITY, PRECISION AND ADMIRABLE BREVITY, THE PRICE WE PAY PUTS ITS FINGER DEEP INTO THE WOUND...”
Serge Kaganski, Les Inrockuptibles
“DO NOT MISS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.”
Michel Abecat, Télérama
A Nous Paris
“THE MOST IMPORTANT FILM TO DATE ON THE COMPLEX YET CRITICAL ISSUE OF TAX IN AN ERA OF GLOBALISATION.”
John Christensen, Director, Tax Justice Network
“SMART, EYE-OPENING AND INCENDIARY… A VITAL EXPOSÉ OF THE FLAGRANT ETHICAL BANKRUPTCY ENDEMIC TO MODERN CAPITALISM, THE PRICE WE PAY IS A COMPELLING, COHERENT AND FORCEFUL CALL TO ACTION.”
Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo, Programmer, Toronto International Film Festival
“ONE OF THE MOST UNSETTLING FILMS I SAW ALL YEAR, AND ONE OF THE SMARTEST. ”
Steve Gravestock, Programmer, Toronto International Film Festival
ONE OF THE MOST UNSETTLING FILMS I SAW ALL YEAR, AND ONE OF THE SMARTEST.
SMART, EYE-OPENING AND INCENDIARY … A VITAL EXPOSÉ OF THE FLAGRANT ETHICAL BANKRUPTCY ENDEMIC TO MODERN CAPITALISM, THE PRICE WE PAY IS A COMPELLING, COHERENT, AND FORCEFUL CALL TO ACTION.
Toronto International Film Festival Toronto 2014
Vancouver International Film Festival 2014
Festival du nouveau cinéma Montréal 2014
TOP TEN, Toronto International Film Festival 2014
CPH : DOX Copenhagen International Documentary Festival 2014
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Canadian Documentary, 2015
Belleville Downtown DocFest 2015
Wakefield International Film Festival 2015
PLANETE+ DOC FILM FESTIVAL Poland 2015
Salt Spring Film Festival 2015
Victoria Film Festival 2015
The Price We Pay, as with other documentaries I share credit on, is concerned with how powerful institutions impact ordinary lives. In the case of the TIFF-selected, Genie-winner The World Is Watching [producer-writer], our focus was foreign news coverage of the 80s Central American peace process; in Bhopal: The Search for Justice [producer-writer] the human impact of a chemical company’s criminal negligence; in the TIFF and Sundance-winner The Corporation [co-wrote narration with director Mark Achbar] the omnivorous corporation; and in critically-acclaimed Surviving Progress [co-director, writer] the ecological impact of Wall Street’s lending practices.
When InformAction’s Nathalie Barton approached me about this project, I was hooked once I realized that taxation is a lens through which we understand power – who has it – who doesn’t – the rules we’re governed by – and whether most people have a hope in hell of getting ahead. Working again with Surviving Progress editor Louis-Martin Paradis and a team of virtuoso Québécois film-making talents, we sought to make an instructive essay-style film that is also a cinematic experience. Our story – told mostly by former insiders now free to speak frankly – is intended to show how the offshoring of the world’s wealth is putting at risk the fruits of 20th century social progress: the middle class and the welfare state.
Western leaders who are vowing to reverse alarming inequality trends fail to acknowledge the extent to which they lack the tools for meaningful action. Since the 80s, the nation state – once guarantor of middle class security – is being reshaped into a “competition” state – whose role is to compete against other states for private investment and jobs – the welfare state be damned.
Further eroding government’s redistributive function is a radical new digital economy. Google, Amazon, Apple and other Internet businesses with the largest computing power succeed by incorporating the “free” labour of hundreds of millions of unpaid users into their value creation chains, bankrupting small and medium-sized companies and driving people into a winner-takes-all informal economy, while shifting offshore their staggering profits.
Gaming the archaic tax system, these corporations along with other virtually state-less multinationals are forcing governments into a race to the fiscal bottom. As public treasuries become less and less able to fund the welfare state, income and wealth inequality is pushed to levels unseen for a century and more".
The film illustrates how the tax haven system originally put in place by City of London bankers in former colonial dependencies as a replacement for the British Empire is today an unregulated “space of money”. Through this space beyond democratic control flows over half the world’s stock of money, multinationals’ profits and vast amounts of private wealth. But as we reveal, this “offshore” world is a legal and accounting fiction. The Caymans and other major tax havens could disappear under the sea without losing their rank as major financial centers. They are artifices that allow their corporate clients to be “citizens of nowhere”. The untaxed trillions of dollars booked here – the so-called “missing” wealth of nations – remains under the control of global finance and big business, which leverages its financial power to dismantle the progressive taxation and social security that once assured rising 20th century equality.
Spurred on by a small band of tax justice campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic, US Congressional and UK parliamentary hearings have exposed massive corporate tax avoidance abuse, and propelled the OECD in 2013 to commit itself to reversing the flow of corporate profits “offshore” and the erosion of public finances. But what some see as a “game changer”, others fear is a charade.
Like the villagers surrounded by Roman Legions in the Asterix The Gaul comic series, today every nation – no matter how large – is outflanked by multinational corporations. None can deal with corporate tax avoidance alone.
As best-selling French academic star Thomas Piketty explains in the film: Only tax cooperation between nations can prevent the disappearance of corporate income taxation in the coming decades.
Other remedies advocated by our interviewees include: adapting tax rules to the novel ways Internet companies create wealth by exploiting their users; and financial transaction [Robin Hood] taxes on the trillions of dollars churning through global financial markets – in what former Wall Street and UK financial insiders we interview say is in large measure “socially useless” investment.
For audiences the take-away of The Price We Pay is this: in a world where corporate and financial wealth no longer has a fixed address, democracy can only be preserved by acting co-operatively beyond borders.
The Price We Pay is inspired by Brigitte Alepin’s book La Crise fiscale qui vient.
The web of tax havens originally created by City of London bankers in the 50s today puts over half the world’s stock of money beyond reach of public treasuries. Nation states are being reshaped by this offshoring of the world’s wealth into “competition” states that battle for investment and jobs. Shifting the tax burden from big corporations and the wealthy – citizens of nowhere for tax purposes – to the middle class and poor to do so, they are paving the way to historic levels of inequality. This story is told by crusading journalists, tax justice campaigners and former finance and technology industry insiders now free to speak frankly. They fear these accelerating trends are carrying the Western world to an unsustainable future.
The Price We Pay is inspired by Brigitte Alepin’s book La Crise fiscale qui vient.
The Price We Pay exposes how “offshore” finance and the tech giants of the “cloud” economy are eroding the foundations of the democratic state, including progressive taxation, a secure middle class, and social safety nets. In the 1950s, City of London bankers created a web of tax haven dependencies that today puts over half the world’s stock of money beyond the reach of public treasuries. Presently, nation states are being reshaped by this offshoring of the world’s wealth into “competition” states that battle each other for investment and jobs. Lowering corporate taxes to do so, they are caught in a perilous race to the bottom. The spreading de-taxation is paving the way to Depression era – or worse – levels of inequality. Meanwhile, the tax burden is shifted to the middle class and the poor. Our guides on this journey include crusading journalists, tax justice campaigners, and a remarkable cast of former major finance and technology industry insiders now free to speak frankly. They fear these accelerating trends are carrying the Western world to an unsustainable future.