Let’s begin this story, like many other articles written about tax havens, with a mailbox. Except that this one isn’t in Dublin or Panama City but in a house in Monheim am Rhein, a town on the banks of the Rhine river in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany.
It’s a house that in the kindest of terms could be called functional: two floors, a flat roof, a broad driveway leading to a garage, a balcony that looks like a pulled-out kitchen drawer and a few randomly-spaced windows.
The mailbox is also an expedient model, shoebox-size, white and square, “powder-coated” and made of “galvanized sheet steel,” according to the product label. Sounds sturdy, and that’s what it’s meant to be.
A grand total of 34 companies have their address at the house. Some of the firms have fine-sounding names like Quality Royal GmbH and Königskultur GmbH. The thing that has attracted all these companies is in the advertising blurb of Monheim 285, the company running the operation: “For all who wish to move their registered office to Monheim, quickly, easily and without major additional costs.” Such companies can “benefit from the low corporate tax rate in North Rhine-Westphalia,” a service available for annual fees starting at €129 ($140.37).