Caribbean ‘Tax havens’ towing the line

(BBC) Caribbean offshore financial sectors say they are bracing for tougher measures on tax havens expected to come out of the summit of rich nations known as the G20 Group in April.

The Bahamas is among those on record as saying that it is ready to open talks with other nations on tax information agreements that comply with international standards.

In a statement Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, insisted that his country “had always sought to be a responsible financial services centre”.
He said his government “recognised significant advances in commitments to broader application of standards of transparency set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD”.

Mr Ingraham said the Bahamas stood ready to negotiate and conclude appropriate arrangements to accommodate the OECD wish list.
“It is therefore the intention of the government of the Bahamas to enter into these negotiations as a matter of priority,” the prime minister said. He indicated that there were a number of outstanding requests for the Bahamas to enter into agreements which provide for the exchange of information, and that each request would be dealt with on an individual basis.

Signing up
The Bahamas is one of the latest offshore financial centres to sign up to tax information sharing standards amid a push by the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations to tighten rules on such centres.
Leaders from G20 countries gather in London April 2.
The premier of another offshore financial centre, the British Virgin Islands, Ralph O’Neal, had said the BVI was already meeting OECD standards.

Mr O’Neal said the government had secured “recognition from governments such as Australia and the United Kingdom that we already meet current standards of regulation and international cooperation”.

The premier made the comment after meeting with British official Michael Foot of the UK Treasury, who conducted a review of the islands’ regulatory system.

But BVI officials, while boasting of being compliant with international standards, have acknowledged that there was room for further improvement, including legislative changes.

Mr Foot for his part said he was taking on board Premier O’Neal’s call for the creation of a level playing field.

Cayman Islands too on board
The Cayman Islands recently announced the extension of tax information assistance to seven new countries.
It means that the authorities in the seven, including Ger-many, Austria and Belgium, can request tax information on accounts held in the islands.

Developed nations tax centres such as Switzerland and Liechtenstein have also agreed in the past month to relax their banking secrecy laws.
Britain, which is hosting the G20 summit, has called for the outlawing of tax havens, but some European leaders have cast doubt as to whether such drastic measures will be taken next month.

The British and US governments recently announced that they would be taking a serious look at the operations of these centres to determine if they are functioning as tax havens where rich people hide their money from the taxman.

St Kitts and Nevis complies
Meanwhile in Basseterre, the St Kitts and Nevis parliament has passed a new law for the exchange of information on taxation.
The twin island federation is the latest Caribbean country to announce their compliance with new rules in a bid to avoid a global crackdown on tax havens.

St Kitts Finance Minister Timothy Harris told parliament that passage of the new law was necessary, to protect the country’s financial sector.

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