Chamber hopes for positive signs after meeting UK officials

  • Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce

    Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce

Two top Foreign Office officials have paid a flying visit to Bermuda to familiarise themselves with the Island’s business environment.

And Tim Colley and Marilia Astle took time to meet with Chamber of Commerce members — who stressed that Bermuda was not a tax haven, as it has been portrayed in sections of the UK media in recent times.

The meeting also led to an invitation to the Chamber to send representatives to the UK Overseas Territories business, trade and investment forum, to be held in London next month.

Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said: “They were very interested in the Chamber’s position on the local economy and keen to receive an update on our current lobbying efforts.

“Our meeting was brief, but we were able to summarise a number of initiatives and report on a broad range of issues related to business in Bermuda.

“The issue of recent negative press in the UK was discussed and it is hoped that in the coming months the Bermuda Business Development Corporation will seek to address these issues head on and begin to generate positive press about our competitive advantages and favourable status as a transparent and well-regulated offshore jurisdiction — that and the fact that Bermuda is very much open for business.”

Deputy Governor David Arkley said the two Foreign Office diplomats had special responsibilities for the Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and Bermuda.

Ms Astle, who has just taken over as team leader for the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda, was on her first visit to the island.

Mr Arkley said: “It was a fact-finding mission just to get to know Bermuda. They will be looking after Bermuda in the London context and so it was a familiarisation visit.”

The visit came after Bermuda hit the headlines again in a row over a tax avoidance scheme used by internet giants Google, which channels money through the Republic of Ireland to the Island in order to minimise its UK tax bill.

Google last year only paid 2.6 percent tax in the US on sales worth $8.1 billion — because it channelled most of its overseas profits through Bermuda, which has no corporate income tax.

Previous revelations about Google’s tax arrangements have led UK parliamentarians to denounce them as “immoral” and led to demands that the Island change its laws.

Google said it follows tax rules in all the countries it operates in — and pays little tax in the UK became its profits are not generated by UK employees.

The UK arm of the firm, as well as other European operations, are designated as providers of marketing services to Google Ireland.

But Google declares little profit in Ireland because it sends nearly all the cash it gets to the Bermuda affiliate, in the form of licence fees for use of Google intellectual property.

The scheme — although legal — has attracted criticism in the recession-hit UK and led to the Island being branded as a tax haven.

Mr Arkley said: “I would characterise this as something we are aware of and we have raised with the Bermuda Government. The characterisation that comes out in the UK media is not always accurate.

“I know its something that Prime Minister David Cameron has made statements on and that’s a more accurate portrayal of the UK government’s position than that which appears in the newspapers in the UK.”

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Published Oct 9, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 8, 2013 at 6:51 pm)

Chamber hopes for positive signs after meeting UK officials

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