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UK, US rank as more secretive than Bermuda

Measuring secrecy: the Tax Justice Network

Bermuda is outranked on a tax secrecy list by Britain, the US and the Cayman Islands.

Bermuda is 34th in the rankings of 100 countries for tax — while the Cayman Islands ranks fifth on the list.

Switzerland tops the list, followed by Hong Kong, the US and Singapore.

Britain is 15th on the list — but the UK-based Tax Justice Network (TJN) said that the country would have topped the list if its Overseas Territories had been included with it.

The UK Crown Dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey ranked 15th and 17th, with the Overseas Territory of the British Virgin Islands in 21st place.

The TJN report said: “Though the US has been a pioneer in defending itself from foreign secrecy jurisdictions it provides little information in return to other countries, making it a formidable, harmful and irresponsible secrecy jurisdiction.”

The report singled out American states Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada as tax havens which made it easy to set up shell companies catering to overseas people and companies looking to hide assets.

And it said: “The US has not seriously addressed its own role in attracting illicit financial flows and supporting tax evasion.”

Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, was yesterday off the Island and could not be contacted for comment.

The individual TJN report on Bermuda gave it a tax secrecy rating of 66 — a mid-level rating — and an overall financial secrecy rating of 217.7.

The US has an overall rating of 1,254.7, with the Caymans on 1,013.1 and the UK at 380.2.

The TJN report said the UK’s commitment to a public register of ownership for UK companies and free online searches for company accounts had boosted the country’s standing.

But it was critical of Britain’s failure to force its Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, to do the same.

Bermuda has maintained a register of beneficial ownership for decades — but it is not available for public inspection.

The TJN report said: “Though the UK isn’t in our top ten, it supports a network of secrecy jurisdictions around the world ... whose trusts and shell companies hold many trillions of dollars worth of assets.

“Had we treated the UK and its dependent territories as a single unit it would easily top the 2015 index, above Switzerland.”

The TJN financial secrecy index measures a range of criteria, with the results weighted according to the scale of financial services offered to non-residents.