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Decision Time for Offshore Financial Centres
It is decision time for offshore financial centres as financial sector regulators meet to discuss the future of international financial centres.
It may well decide to impose higher standards on states that seek to operate as international financial centres. , the leading wealth management and financial services news Web site, has been interviewing decision makers at Los Cabos summit about the future direction of the sector.
The imposition of higher standards will mean a division will open up between those centres which have pursued tax transparency agreements with a network of leading economies and those which have not.
In April, Businessifc.com reported on the creation of a dynamic table by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This identified jurisdictions which were on its white, grey and black lists. The black list disappeared within a few days. The challenge was on for the grey listed centres to meet standards for admission to the white list.
The numerical barrier was 12 tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) or equivalent tax treaties. Bermuda, Bahrain, Luxembourg and Belgium have since been admitted to the white list. The Cayman Islands and BVI have also signed 12 TIEAs and were elevated on August 14. Switzerland is - according to Swiss government sources - close to meeting the standard.
A series of other jurisdictions are making valiant - if somewhat slower - progress. Gibraltar has been praised by the OECD and Jeffrey Owens, the director of the OECD tax forum, speaking to Businessifc.com, mentioned Samoa's commitment.
However, there are 23 jurisdictions which claim to be committed but have signed no agreements. The G20 asked the OECD to create a package of savage fiscal sanctions for its members. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the UK prime minister Gordon Brown said they wanted the G20 in March 2020 to adopt sanctions against non-compliant states.
The Los Cabos meeting will do several things. It will determine when and how to raise the number of tax agreements signed. This will probably ultimately go into the late 20s. It will, according to Owens when spoke to businessifc.com, set up qualitative peer reviews for the future monitoring of transparency agreements. It will also determine the first steps on fiscal sanctions.
But a wider debate is also planned for Los Cabos. The independence of the ownership of the tax transparency process will be on the table. Malcolm Couch, Assessor for Income Tax in the Isle of Man, told Businessifc.com that he favours a new independent body not unlike IOSCO to manage tax transparency.
In practice, this is likely to be a battle between the OECD member states like France, the UK and Germany and less influential economies like international financial centres. To go for an independent process would give a greater say to many more countries. So, the September meeting could be fireworks all around.