HMRC launches second consultation on tackling offshore tax evasion
HMRC has proposed new legislation requiring tax payers with outstanding tax liabilities relating to offshore matters to come forwards and correct such liabilities. If it is not carried out before September 2018, the taxpayer will be subject to a new, tougher, set of sanctions for ‘‘failing to correct’’. These will apply to all relevant years that have not been corrected. By October, HMRC is intending to start receiving data on the offshore finances of UK taxpayers.
The report, led by Jane Ellison MP of the Treasury states: “For too long it has been too easy for people to hide their money overseas to evade tax. We are changing that. We now have agreement with over 100 countries to exchange information on financial accounts automatically every year. Starting this year for our Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, HMRC will receive a wide range of information on offshore accounts held by UK tax residents.”
Reporting via the Cayman Compass states that the UK Government is planning to impose large fines for service providers and consultants who advise clients on how to avoid tax with schemes that are found to be unlawful.
Cayman’s Financial Services Minister, Hon Wayne Panton, also told The Cayman Reporter that he expects local industry officials to have “significant concerns” about UK proposed penalties aimed at penalising professionals who actively assist tax dodgers.
US Treasury criticises European Commission investigation of corporate tax breaks
The US Treasury has criticised the European Commission’s investigation of corporate tax breaks, stating that: “The Commission is charting a course that sets aside years of multilateral efforts.” It added: “The Commission’s path runs the risk of the EU being perceived as having used its unique structure to undermine and reverse international progress.”
In a 25-page paper released on Wednesday, the US contends that the EU has made an “unforeseeable departure from the status quo” and is acting inconsistent with international tax norms.
EU officials have said repeatedly that they are merely following their own laws against unfair competition, which require them to recover improper “state aid” to companies in the form of selective tax breaks provided by EU member countries.
In response to the Treasury report, a European Commission spokeswoman said on Wednesday that it is following a “standard feature” of EU law and applying it indiscriminately against companies regardless of where they are from. The spokeswoman said officials remain “available to offer all necessary further clarifications” to the US.
Swedish Prime Minister – aggressive tax cuts from Britain threaten good relations
In an interview with Bloomberg, Stefan Loefven Prime Minister of Sweden stated that Britain taking “taking time to think” about the agreements with the EU is a mutual benefit, giving EU countries the same.
However, he sees aggressive corporation tax cuts throughout during the negotiations as potentially threatening to good relations. He instead cited needs for talks on investment and education.
Kuwait takes steps towards improving tax transparency
As announced by the OECD, on 19 August Kuwait joined the 83 current signatories to the CRS Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement ("CRS MCAA"), the key international framework agreement for putting in place the automatic exchange of information on offshore financial accounts foreseen by the OECD Common Reporting Standard (CRS).
By doing so, Kuwait is re-confirming its commitment to implement automatic exchange of financial account information in time to commence exchanges in 2018.
Spear’s reports that offshore world likely to face little impact in Brexit fallout
Richard Wilson QC, writing for Spear's, has explained that there is unlikely to be significant change to the substantive laws governing trusts, estate planning or taxation of HNWIs.
These are, mercifully, areas of law where EU law has had little impact and the extrication of the UK from the EU will therefore not create any significant difficulties, he explained.
Cayman Islands register confirms 100,000+ active companies
Cayman Finance has confirmed that there are over 100,000 active companies now registered to the Cayman Islands company register.
At the end of the second quarter, 101,430 companies were listed as active, three per cent more than a year earlier and 2.6 per cent more than at the end of 2015, according to figures from the Cayman Islands General Registry.
Jude Scott of Cayman Finance commented: “It’s always great to see growth in Cayman’s financial services industry and this is a significant milestone of which we should all be proud. Milestones such as this are further evidence of the global financial services industry’s recognition of Cayman’s transparency and robust regulatory regime.”
Singapore joins BEPS agenda
As reported by the Business Times of Singapore, the Republic has said that it would join the framework as a BEPS Associate.
By joining this framework, Singapore will work with other participating jurisdictions to ensure the consistent implementation of measures under the BEPS Project, and a level playing field across jurisdictions, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement in June.
It stated: “Singapore supports the key principle underlying the BEPS Project, namely that profits should be taxed where the real economic activities generating the profits are performed and where value is created.”
Trump announced plans for 15% corporation tax rate
At an event in Detroit, Donald Trump has announced intentions to cut corporation tax from 35% to 15%, putting the USA on a level field with many of the world's lower tax rate jurisdictions.
As reported by the Financial Times, the cut was aimed at overseas tax competition and echoed a recent proposal made by George Osborne earlier this summer. In particular, Trump states the intention of wanting to stop "inversion" mergers that US companies have used to cut their tax bills by moving their addresses overseas.
"We are ready to show the world that America is back ' bigger and better and stronger than ever before," Mr Trump told the Economic Club of Detroit.
The plans have been criticised by Clinton for benefiting only the wealthy and the largest corporations.
This week, Indonesia has also stated intentions to cut corporation tax in order to be more competitive to other South East Asian nations, namely Singapore. The government is deciding whether to cut the corporate tax rate at once, or gradually reduce it from 25% to 20% and then to 17%, according to the cabinet secretariat's website, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
Canada proposes next steps for implementation of BEPS
Canada's finance minister has outlined draft measures for the implementation of BEPS.
As reported by Bloomberg BNA, the draft amendments to the Income Tax Act would strengthen Canada's transfer pricing rules by adopting country-by-country reporting, effective for the 2015 taxation year, the Department of Finance said in a July 29 statement.
The amendments would also incorporate penalties for failing to meet the OECD's common reporting standard, under which Canada is to make its first information exchanges in 2018 on financial accounts held in Canada by foreign residents.
Reporting via Tax News confirms that in line with Canada's intentions, the Seychelles have also committed to implementing the minimum standards on BEPS.
The commitment comes as the territory becomes an associate member of the OECD's new inclusive framework for BEPS implementation. These minimum standards are on: harmful tax practices, tax treaty abuse, country-by-country reporting, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
Guernsey funds industry sees continued growth
The funds business in Guernsey is now worth £227.6bn ($323.7bn, '288.2bn) ' a year-on-year increase of £8.2bn in net asset value, data from the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC) has revealed.
As reported by, Portfolio Adviser Non-Guernsey schemes, which consists of open-ended funds that are not domiciled in Guernsey but have some aspect of their management, administration or custody carried out on the Island, increased in value by nearly 10% at £4.1bn annually bringing the total up to £48bn.
Dominic Wheatley, chief executive of Guernsey Finance said: "It is extremely pleasing to see that we ended last year with a further quarter of growth and that we saw an increase of more than £8bn for 2015 as a whole."
Mauritius ' the finance centre of preference for South African IFAs
Research from Providence Life confirms that Mauritius is considered the leading offshore centre among South Africa's IFA community.
Providence Life's chief executive Austin Blair said Britain's unprecedented decision to leave the European Union, announced on 24 June, has raised doubts over the future use of EU-based offshore jurisdictions, such as Luxembourg, International Adviser reports.
"Over the coming years, it could well be that IFAs in Southern Africa and elsewhere in the region look for innovative solutions that are domiciled much closer to home - in Mauritius, for example," he said
House of Commons exchange on beneficial ownership and AEOI
Below is an exchange on beneficial ownership and automatic exchange of information, following a question posed by Jonathan Ashworth MP (Leicester South) , answered by Sir Alan Duncan (Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) ) .
Sir Alan says that arrangements will be coming into place by June 2017, and he praises the advancements the CDOTs have made ahead of other jurisdictions in light of countering criminal activity. His line is similar to those pushed by Cameron and others at the anti-corruption summit, suggesting that this government is likely to tow a similar line.
For background, Jonathan Ashworth has posed numerous questions relating to anti-corruption and constitutional relationships with CDOTs.
Jonathan Ashworth: What plans the Government has to force Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to establish public central registers of beneficial ownership.
Sir Alan Duncan: While the Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) are separate jurisdictions, and are responsible for their own fiscal matters, we are working closely with them on their role on company transparency. Our priority has been for them to establish a central register of beneficial ownership information (or a similarly effective system) where they do not already have one, and for UK law enforcement and tax authorities to have full and automatic access to that information. Bilateral arrangements to this effect have now been concluded with all the relevant OTs and with the CDs, and these will enter into effect by June 2017. The registers will, with one exception, not be public, but these measures will place our Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories well ahead of other similar jurisdictions and represent a significant step forward in our ability to counter criminal activity.
APPG for Responsible Tax: examination of the OECD's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) published
The APPG for Responsible Tax has published its first report 'A more responsible global tax system or a 'sticking plaster'? An examination of the OECD's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) process and recommendations'.
The APPG, chaired by Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, argues that the OECD's BEPS Project rules "simply provide a sticking plaster on an international tax system struggling to cope with the digitisation and globalisation of businesses".
Of note, the APPG is calling for the Government to "compel" the CDs and OTs to adopt public registers of beneficial ownership, as well as introduce public country-by-country reporting in the UK. Hodge also described the British Government as a "difficult friend", adding: "Their unwillingness to get tough on our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, home to a number of tax havens, by forcing them to introduce public registers of beneficial ownership is frustrating."
EU place New Zealand under tax investigations
Following reports from the New Zealand Herald this week that the country is being placed on the EU tax 'blacklist' these have now been denied by the EU.
In a statement, the EU delegation in Wellington confirmed that the European Commission was assessing all non-EU countries' tax policies. Thus, the assessment is not specific to New Zealand.
Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse said earlier this week that he was aware the European Parliament had set up a committee to look into matters in relation to the Panama Papers.
"While our tax settings are sound by international standards, the Government was always open to making improvements to New Zealand's already strong tax settings if that was warranted."
According to a survey conducted by Eurobarometer, 75% of Europeans would like more activity on tax evasion. Commenting on the results of the survey, Roberto Gualtieri, the Italian Chairman of the European Parliament's Economic Committee, said: "The European Parliament is leading this fight, by adopting ambitious and concrete proposals to increase tax transparency and combat tax avoidance, calling for the automatic exchange of tax rulings between member states and public country-by-country reporting for multinationals, together with a common definition of tax havens and strong and concrete sanctions."
OECD states Switzerland to be 'overly compliant'
As reported by STEP, Switzerland has been rated as 'overall largely compliant' by the OECD's Global Tax Transparency Forum, following the completion of the Phase 2 peer review process started last year.
A Phase 2 peer review checks that a jurisdiction is actually following the tax transparency practices set out in its legislative framework and in international agreements for exchange of information on request.
However, some of Switzerland's continuing practices, such as the toleration of bearer shares in some circumstances, were criticised in the OECD report. 'If Switzerland is to maintain its good rating or even improve on it in the next review round, it must examine how the Global Forum's recommendations can be implemented', said the Federal Finance Department.
Cayman's Anthony Travers rejects criticism of offshore finance
Cayman News Service have reported how Anthony Travers, a former Chairman of the Board of Cayman Finance, dismissed critics of low-tax jurisdictions as he joined documentary film maker, Jaques Perretti, on a panel at the IBC Transcontinental Trust Forum in Geneva last month .
Travers insisted that banking secrecy does not exist in the Cayman Islands. He also said that there was benefit to local people from the offshore sector as it creates jobs and feeds the indirect tax system. He lists the 'fallacies' of Perretti's claims, including that tax havens don't benefit onshore jurisdictions, as he pointed to the onshore investment from institutions registered offshore.
A video of the event can be found here which includes Tony Langham, co-founder of Lansons, chairing the panel.
Guernsey Finance support's Theresa May's tax haven policies
According to last week's announcement via The Times, on May's intentions to commitment to cleaning up business after the indictment of Sir Philip Green as the "unacceptable face of capitalism" from other MPs, Guernsey has supported these claims.
'I believe we should welcome the report of the Committee of Public Accounts as part of the UK's ongoing fight against tax evasion,' said Guernsey Finance chief executive Dominic Wheatley in response.
'Guernsey is not a tax haven and we do not look to condone or facilitate tax fraud in any way. We strongly believe that all tax should be paid where it is due and that international finance business should be conducted in an open and transparent way that provides tax authorities with the access to relevant data to enable them to ensure that this happens. That is why Guernsey has been an enthusiastic disciple to the international initiatives to ensure proper levels of transparency in international finance.'
G20 communique published
The communique for the latest G20 has been published by China's State Administration of Taxation.
It has expressed the following:
-It 'welcomes' the first meeting of the G20/OECD Inclusive Framework on BEPS held in Kyoto and calls for other countries to sign up to the BEPS package in order for equal footing -Has reiterated calls on relevant countries (incl. all IFCs and jurisdictions) who have not yet committed to the standard on automatic exchange of information to commit by 2018. As part of this they should sign the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters
-Has supported Global Forum's monitoring of the implementation of automatic exchange of information and expects the report to be finalised by the end of 2016. It also supports proposals for the objective criteria to identify non-cooperative jurisdictions.
-The OECD expects a progress update by June 2017, with a list in place by the July 2017 G20 Leaders' Summit of those jurisdictions that have not yet sufficiently progressed toward a satisfactory level of implementation. Consequentially, defensive measures will be considered against such listed jurisdictions
-Regarding beneficial ownership, the G20 hopes to see the FATF and Global Forum making proposals by the G20 October meeting
Of note, International Tax Review has reported on the communique by focusing on the OECD's plans to establish a 'tax haven' blacklist by July 2017, following talks at the G20 meeting.
May pledges to curb use of tax havens
Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a crackdown on companies' use of offshore tax havens as part of her drive to "reform capitalism" after the BHS scandal.
According to the Times, May restated her commitment to clean up business after the indictment of Sir Philip Green as the "unacceptable face of capitalism" from other MPs.
The paper reports that the Prime Minister will not comment directly on Sir Philip while a Whitehall committee decides whether to strip him of his knighthood, but she has told officials to examine what can be done to ban offshore tax arrangements similar to those used by the Green family. It is expected that draft proposals could be ready in time for the Tory conference this autumn.
Hitting back, offshore investment firm deVere Group has warned May not to "tarnish" the offshore world through BHS scandals. International Investment writes that CEO Nigel Green has said: "It must be remembered that tax havens aren't just the traditional 'treasure islands'. The UK, for example, is a major tax haven for Chinese and Russian nationals living in Britain. The UK is a tax haven for non-Brits to attract foreign investment."
Guernsey uses Brexit advantageously
Uncertainty in the wake of the EU Referendum vote has bolstered a state-funded initiative to attract businesses and high net worth families to set-up or relocate to Guernsey.
Locate Guernsey, funded by the Island's Government, the States of Guernsey, has already helped 14 businesses and high net worth individuals move to the Channel Island in the first six months of 2016. It is predominantly targeting UK resident but non-domiciled individuals, fund managers, reinsurance companies, digital, and FinTech businesses.
Richard Le Tocq, Head of Locate Guernsey said: "Commercial activity on the island ranges from global financial services to the visitor economy, alongside digital and creative industries. Guernsey has a thriving e-gaming sector and a drive to develop as a FinTech centre of excellence."
Liechtenstein positioned as promoting and encouraging the transparency agenda
According to World Finance, "increased transparency in offshore centres will benefit the global economy".
Philip Marcovici of Kaiser Partner told the publication that: "After years of secrecy within the offshore corporate services industry, we are now witnessing a regime change". He states that Liechtenstein has promoted an alternative offer as being one of the first financial centres to embrace change and recognise that good strategy involves taking into account the needs of all stakeholders. This entailed protecting the needs of wealth-owning families and their businesses, while respecting the legislation of home countries and fulfilling the requirements of Liechtenstein's financial centre.
Taking a leadership role on tax compliance and transparency, in 2009 the jurisdiction positioned itself as a financial centre of the future with the support and guidance of the OECD. One measure the state introduced to ensure its positive influence across the entire industry was the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) and the accompanying Taxpayer Assistance and Compliance Programme (TACP) . These two mechanisms were established between the governments of both the UK and Liechtenstein.
Cayman Islands introduces innovative new limited liability company law
The Cayman Islands has introduced a new limited liability company regime.
The law has been welcomed by Cayman Finance, whose CEO Jude Scott said that the new regime will "give our industry a competitive advantage in the international market and enhance the critical role we play in the global economy", as it is "the most recent example of Cayman's constant focus on evolving our industry to anticipate and meet the ever-changing needs of our clients".
He added: "The success of those efforts demonstrates why the Cayman Islands is by far the largest domicile for global offshore alternative investment funds ' home to over 11,000 regulated investment funds, many thousands of private equity funds and international commercial asset financing transactions, with the world's top managers using Cayman Islands vehicles in their structures."
Malta amends income tax rulings following pensions pressures
Reporting by International Adviser, confirms that Malta's Government has amended the income tax rulings following concerns that new rules under the Retirement Pensions Act, which came into force on 1 January 2016, were being "misinterpreted" by providers of qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes (Qrops) .
The resulting clarification now makes clear that a Maltese Qrops can allow up to a 30% pension commencement lump sum (PCLS) which can be taken on a phased basis, depending on the value of the pension scheme assets at the time benefits commence and over a maximum period of 12 months from this date.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns appointed Minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories
Following the latest parliamentary reshuffle, it has now been confirmed that Joyce Anelay, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, has been given the Overseas Territories brief within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She takes over the remit from James Dudderidge MP.
For background, below is a short biography of her:
Baroness Anelay was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in August 2014. In July 2016 she was given additional responsibility for the Department for International Development. Baroness Anelay is a Conservative member of the House of Lords.
Outside of the offshore territories (excluding Falklands, SBAs and Gibraltar) in her current role she has responsibility for all FCO business in the Lords, the Commonwealth (as an institution) , the Caribbean, human rights, the UN, international organisations, peacekeeping and the International Criminal Court, climate change and international energy security policy.
Baroness Anelay was raised to the peerage in 1996 and served as an Opposition Spokesperson for various departments until being appointed Opposition Chief Whip in 2007. She was appointed the Prime Minister's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2015. Prior to this she was Chief Whip in the House of Lords and Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms. She was made a Privy Counsellor in 2009.
Outside of politics, between 1969 and 1974 she worked in education, and also served as a magistrate between 1985 and 1997. She was also associated with the Citizens Advice Bureau in Woking from 1976 to 2010, including periods as a voluntary adviser, Chairman of the Management Committee and President of the CAB.
Baroness Anelay has been married to Richard Anelay QC since 1970
Guernsey signs beneficial ownership agreement
Guernsey has completed its beneficial ownership agreement with the UK, and now two formal declarations relating to the exchange of beneficial ownership information have been signed.
This includes an Exchange of Notes with the UK Government, which establishes the commitment of Guernsey and the UK to provide law enforcement authorities, including tax authorities, of each jurisdiction with beneficial ownership information.
Deputy Lyndon Trott, Vice President of the Policy & Resources Committee said: "With our establishment of a beneficial ownership register, we will be building on the system we already have in place, which includes a legal obligation for corporate service providers to retain beneficial ownership information."
As a result of these commitments, Guernsey has been removed from Bulgaria's list of jurisdictions with preferential tax regimes.
Boris Johnson meets Chief Minister of Gibraltar
On 16th July, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, in London. He vowed to protect the sovereignty of Gibraltar and involve the state in all pending negotiations.
The full statement from Johnson is below:
"I was delighted to meet Chief Minister Picardo. I reassured him of both our steadfast commitment to Gibraltar, and our intention to fully involve Gibraltar in discussions on our future relationship with the EU.
"The people of Gibraltar have repeatedly and overwhelmingly expressed their wish to remain under British sovereignty and we will respect their wishes. We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes. Furthermore, the UK will not enter into any process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content. We will continue to take whatever action is necessary to safeguard Gibraltar, its people and its economy including maintaining a well-functioning Gibraltar-Spain border."
UK Parliament debates the effect of the EU referendum on Gibraltar
Jack Lopresti MP, Chair of the APPG for Gibraltar led a debate in Parliament on Wednesday to consider the effect of the EU referendum on Gibraltar. The transcript can be found here.
Lopresti explained that the vote to Leave the EU could risk the current economic model in Gibraltar and expose it to new threats from Spain. He said that the two key issues for Gibraltar are the freedom to provide services and a free-flowing frontier, urging the Government to ensure that Gibraltar "is a red line that any bilateral treaty must include".
Chair of the APPG on the Overseas Territories Andrew Rosindell also spoke in the debate, noting that there are 21 territories and dependencies, all of which are nervous about the implications for them if the UK leaves the EU. He went on to argue that it is "outdated" the people of an Overseas Territory'particularly Gibraltar'have no voice in this Parliament. "There is not even a dedicated Select Committee that deals with overseas territories. There is no elected representation from overseas territories in the UK Parliament. We are the only country in the world with overseas territories that denies them the right to have a voice and some form of representation in Parliament."
Responding for the Government, Minister for Exiting the European Union Robin Walker explained that his department has four main aims:
He assured MPs that the Government would "fully involve" Gibraltar in preparations for the process of exiting from the EU and negotiation of future trading arrangements with its members, adding that this meant that the Government will work "in partnership with the Government of Gibraltar, to ensure that we have a shared understanding of their interests and objectives".
Trinidad and Tobago ' Handling Negative Publicity
Z/Yen has looked at what an IFC in danger of being perceived as a 'tax haven' do to manage the outpouring of potentially damaging headlines, setting out three options:
The think tank goes on to explain that Trinidad and Tobago, a newly formed financial centre is "genuinely setting out to be different". It says that the Trinidad and Tobago IFC is "being developed using global standards and best practices and will have a modern, principle based regulatory framework which will be supported by enforcement action against firms that breach the legislation and regulations".
Grant Thornton offers advice and guidance following Brexit vote
Grant Thornton has launched an online Brexit resource to try and assist businesses understand the implications of the referendum outcome, and plan for the future during uncertain times.
Michael Crowe, a Director at Grant Thornton in the Isle of Man, said: "There are many companies in the Isle of Man which do business with EU member states and the UK, and the Brexit vote has created a degree of anxiety about the future. There will be a keen interest in the exit negotiations and how the Isle of Man's relationship with the EU, currently dictated by Protocol 3, will be defined in the future.
"However, until those negotiations begin we have no clear idea of how the exit will work, the timescale or what impact the possible exit decisions will have for business. To address some of the uncertainty Grant Thornton UK has launched a dedicated online Brexit resource offering expert insight, based upon the extensive knowledge within the Grant Thornton network and informed by analysis of the relationship with the EU adopted by other nations.
"It should prove extremely useful for Island businesses which want to better understand how the UK's departure from the EU will work, what the pros and cons of the economic models which could be adopted are, and what issues they need to be focusing on now to prepare for whatever the future holds."