Beneficial Ownership Registries and Automatic Exchange of Information
We first posted UK mini-FATCA Agreements Spells The End for UK Tax Haven Territories!, on Monday, November 26, 2012, where we discussed that the UK government is about to reveal legislation imposing automatic client disclosure provisions on financial institutions in the Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories.
The draft, described as a UK version of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), is said to mandate the automatic reporting of financial and beneficial ownership information for each account of each offshore financial institution to the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs.
The draft agreement requires the automatic exchange of information for each reportable account of each reporting financial institution. That will include full details of all beneficial owners of the account, including those whose identities might otherwise be hidden by trusts or companies. It will also requires the account number, name and identifying number of the reporting financial institution as provided when registering with the IRS for FATCA purposes, and the account balance or value as of the end of the relevant calendar year or other appropriate reporting period or, if the account was closed during such year, immediately before closure.
The letter was sent to the heads of government of Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat. It asks them to set up ‘fully resourced and properly managed’ centralized registries that will allow law enforcement and tax collectors to obtain ‘full and accurate details’ of ownership and control of all companies.
Cameron’s letter sets the offshore jurisdictions a nominal deadline of 17 June, the date of the next G8 leaders’ summit to be hosted by the UK. High on the UK’s agenda will be a drive to ‘knock down the walls of company secrecy,’ he says.
The chief ministers of Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar have written to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron offering to join the OECD’s Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters.
They also agreed to attend a meeting in London at which the UK will press its dependencies to agree to full automatic exchange of tax information. The UK government is currently pressing its dependencies to agree to fully automatic exchange of tax information. It is hosting a meeting in London on 15 June to discuss the terms, and the chief ministers of the four jurisdictions have agreed to attend.
Their offer to sign the less stringent OECD convention may be intended to show their commitment to tax transparency, while stopping short of accepting the automatic reporting of banking transactions to HM Revenue and Customs.
Letters from the jurisdictions’ chief ministers to David Cameron stressed the importance of ‘a global standard of tax transparency to provide a level playing field for countries across the world’. All are anxious that Britain’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories are not singled out for especially stringent treatment.
The four ministers also offered to cooperate with proposals for stricter identification of corporate beneficial ownership, although they say they have adequate measures in place.
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