Is it ‘tax haven’ or ‘tax heaven’ in English?

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

A tax haven is a place where companies and/or individuals pay very low taxes (or no taxes at all). In most languages, such a place is literally called a “tax paradise”, e.g.

Steuerparadies (German), or Steueroase (“Tax Oasis”)
Paradis fiscal (French)
Paraíso fiscal (Spanish)

Haven, pronounced /ˈheɪvn/ (hey-vn), means “a safe place; a shelter”. It is a relatively uncommon word (about 10x less common than “heaven”), and the only difference between “haven” and “heaven” is the letter “e”.

Since paradise and heaven are closely related concepts, non-native speakers of English who are not familiar with the word “haven” often simply don’t notice the spelling difference and automatically assume that a “tax haven” is actually a “tax heaven”.

However, rest assured that the only standard form in English is tax haven. “Tax heaven” is an incorrect back-formation from the equivalent expressions in other languages and is generally frowned upon in all kinds of academic writing.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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