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OTs ‘commit to joining’ convention on tax matters

Bermuda and a handful of other British Overseas Territories have agreed to “commit to joining” the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters and take part in a pilot tax information exchange initiative launched by the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, according to a press statement issued on PRnewswire.

But none of that was apparent when Premier Craig Cannonier and Finance Minister Bob Richards updated the media on their meetings in London on Tuesday.

Instead, the Premier stressed he had signed no deal on Bermuda’s behalf and that he had asked British Prime Minister David Cameron for more time to examine the details of the Convention.

According to Mr Cannonier, the Bermuda delegation had stressed to Mr Cameron that Bermuda and the other OTs had not been given a “fair opportunity” to examine the multilateral agreement that he wanted signed.

Asked if the UK had accepted the request for more time, the Premier said: “They have to.”

However, the press release, issued by Citigate Dewe Rogerson, the UK PR agency for the British Virgin Islands, states: “We, the Political Leaders of the Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos, warmly welcome our meeting with the Prime Minister today to discuss Tax, Trade and Transparency, where we had a very clear agreement and constructive exchange of views on the practical steps needed to tackle the global problem of tax evasion and how the UK and the Overseas Territories will continue to apply our high standards of regulation to address this.

“As part of our contribution to advancing this global agenda and to create a level playing field right across the world, different Overseas Territories at different times, and now unanimously, have reiterated and confirmed our agreement to the following three important steps:

l To play an active part in the new pilot initiative of multilateral automatic tax information exchange launched by the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain;

l To prepare national action plans on Beneficial Ownership to meet the FATF standards;

l To commit to joining the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters.”

And Mr Cameron reported as much in his remarks to the UK House of Commons on the G8 summit, which followed his meeting with the OTs.

“The Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies have signed up to the multilateral convention on information exchange, agreed automatic exchange of information with the UK and action plans for beneficial ownership,” he said yesterday.

Last night Mr Cannonier insisted the release did not contradict his update to Bermudians on Tuesday.

“The statement that was released is a general statement that was being worked on by all members of the Overseas Territories last week. As we are at varying degrees of compliance, the statement speaks to our overarching agreement to comply with the Multilateral Convention Agreement initiative to exchange information and increase transparency, of which Bermuda has been leading the way.

“For example, in the statement, the second point speaks to the need for information regarding Beneficial Business Ownership and the exchange of information. It is no secret that Bermuda has signed almost 40 TIEAs and already has a registry of Beneficial Ownership for the companies doing business in Bermuda. Other countries are not as far along that far along in the process, but agree with it nonetheless.

“As OTs we agreed to each go away and speak to our own respective stakeholder groups to provide a more detailed account regarding our current status, which was clearly articulated at yesterday’s press conference.

“Bermuda’s position remains the same — we agree with the Multilateral Convention Agreement in principle, as do the other OTs, but we haven’t signed the agreement.

“As to your question regarding why wasn’t the local media sent the release, I can’t speak to that as I don’t know which country sent the release out.”

(Photo by Mark Tatem) Premier Craig Cannonier speaks during a press conference on Tuesday, flanked by Finance Minister Bob Richards (left) and Assistant Financial Secretary Wayne Brown

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Published June 20, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 20, 2013 at 12:01 am)

OTs ‘commit to joining’ convention on tax matters

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