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OECD chief tells Bahamas: Act now to avoid ‘blacklist’

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The OECD’s Global Forum head yesterday delivered a blunt warning that the Bahamas must “take quick action” to avoid being ‘blacklisted’, arguing that this nation’s image was that of “the last tax haven standing”.

Monica Bhatia, who leads the secretariat for the OECD’s Global Forum on transparency and tax information exchange, told Bahamian financial services executives that while this nation had shown its commitment to implementing global standards, it was challenged to keep up with a fast-changing tax transparency environment.

Ms Bhatia said the Bahamas was the only financial services jurisdiction of substance yet to commit to the automatic exchange of tax information on a ‘multilateral’ basis, sticking with its previously stated ‘bilateral’ approach.

As a result, she argued that the Bahamas was seen as undermining the ‘level playing field’ concept when it came to implementing the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), the global benchmark for automatic tax information exchange.

“I think the approach the Bahamas has taken to the implementation of automatic exchange, particularly the bilateral approach, has made the Bahamas an outlier,” Ms Bhatia said, speaking at an industry briefing at the Meliá Nassau Beach Resort.

“There are now 109 countries and jurisdictions that are participating in the multilateral convention, the most recent one being the United Arab Emirates. The Bahamas is now the only country which has not signed the multilateral convention. That obviously brings all the attention of its peers on to the Bahamas.”

Explaining the consequences, Ms Bhatia added: “While the concept of a level playing field was something that was put forward by the Bahamas initially, it itself is being seen to be unlevelling the playing field now. It is seen to be a straggler.

“I think this brings with it very huge reputational risks. We’ve seen the media coverage, we get feedback from members, from industries in other countries, but it [the Bahamas] seems to be projecting itself as the last standing tax haven.

“We don’t use the word ‘tax haven’ in the Global Forum at all, but this is still being picked up by the media and our peers that that is what the Bahamas is projecting itself as.”

The European Union has threatened to publish a ‘blacklist’ of so-called ‘tax havens’ by year-end 2017. The Bahamas, should it fail to meet its Common Reporting Standard (CRS) implementation deadline and negotiate automatic tax information exchange agreements with the EU and its member states, would almost certainly find itself on such a list.

    This concern was reiterated by Ms Bhatia, who warned: “I see that for the Bahamas, unless action is taken very quickly and some very  clear and convincing messages are sent out, I think that there is a big risk of ending up on a blacklist; certainly in the medium term, if not in the short-term. We don’t want to see any of our members ending up on any blacklist.”

As revealed by Tribune Business earlier this week, the Bahamas is under growing pressure to bow to international demands that it automatically exchange tax information on a ‘multilateral’ basis, with the European Union (EU) and its members refusing to accept this nation’s preferred approach.

The Bahamas previously agreed to implement the CRS, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) global standard for automatic tax information exchange, via a bilateral approach that involved negotiating agreements on an individual country-by country basis.

However, the OECD and its developed country members have been steadily increasing the pressure on the Bahamas to switch to the ‘multilateral’ approach, requiring this country to negotiate tax deals with all-comers at once.

The Bahamas has been left exposed by the decisions of Hong Kong, Panama and the United Arab Emirates  to switch from the bilateral to multilateral approach, which has left this nation as the last international financial centre (IFC) of significance that is sticking to the former.

    The refusal of the EU and its members to accept the Bahamas’ ‘bilateral’ approach - an approach previously accepted by the OECD itself - creates several potential threats for this nation’s financial services industry.

With ‘the clocking ticking down’ to the Bahamas’ commitment to implement the CRS and automatic tax information exchange by 2018, the refusal of the EU and its member states to negotiate could jeopardise meeting this deadline.

And, potentially more problematic, is the EU’s threat to publish a ‘blacklist’ of so-called ‘tax havens’ by year-end 2017.

If the Bahamas finds itself on such a list, its reputation, integrity and ability to attract financial services business will be threatened, undermining the economy’s ‘second pillar’ and the sector that underpins the nation’s middle class.

Financial services industry sources have said the Bahamas would still be able to “survive” if forced to ultimately adopt the multilateral approach to CRS implementation, as it would not be placed at a competitive disadvantage since all rivals were doing the same.

However, Ryan Pinder, the former minister of financial services, had argued against the ‘multilateral’ route because the Bahamas currently has no tax architecture to facilitate the “spontaneous” handing over of the information it demands, the US excepted (FATCA).

As a result, should the Bahamas be forced down the multilateral route, the costs, time and bureaucracy associated with compliance will likely increase for both the Government and financial services industry, further hitting this nation’s competitiveness.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 1 month ago

Will key players in our offshore financial services sector please grow a pair and tell Bhatia to f... off!

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TheMadHatter 5 years, 1 month ago

Mudda sic ... i agree. The member states of the EU are the ones refusing to speak with us to forge agreements and yet we are the culprits?

This is nonsense.

We should refuse to recognize the EU currency and inform IATTA that travel agents should warn customers and airlines from any EU country that does not have a tax disclosure agreement with us that we will refuse entry to them at the border.

That will get international headlines and our government should respond to reporters saying that "A large part of the Bahamas economy comes from financial services. The refusal of certain countries to work with us on internationally recognized tax disclosure agreements is having the effect of painting us as a tax haven - which we are not. Ww have been asking to and stand ready to form agreements with any country in the world. Ask them why they choose to hide behind the banner of the EU. Until such timevas agreements are in place we cannot allow anyone to come here from those countries and go back claiming they have set up secret bank accounts. The Bahamas does not operate secret bank accounts and is in full compliance with all tax agreements put forth by the United States."

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Economist 5 years, 1 month ago

The Bahamian Dollar is not an international currency. Therefore, all the OECD will do is refuse to transact anything for The Bahamas.

You may want to tell them to " ......" but that would be like deliberately driving at twice the speed limit when you see a police speed trap.

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concerned799 5 years, 1 month ago

The Bahamas gave significant concessions to avoid a blacklist in 2000 under Ingram. It seems the demands are now never ending to avoid a "blacklist".

So what guarantee is there the Bahamas wouldn't get a blacklist label even if it gave in to the "new" demands once you make even newer demands in a few years?

And further what resolution of the UN gave you the right to dictate to the nations of the world oh high OECD?

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anthonytravers 5 years, 1 month ago

Well as a keen observer of the disingenuity of the Organisation for Economic Chaos and Destruction point one if Ms Bhatia is to be believed and she is not that the OECD should first unreservedly withdraw its 1998 Harmful Tax Competition Report which still fabricates lack of substance as a factor in tax haven designation.Point two is that not accepting the CRS moves the Bahamas up to favored position for those private clients seeking to rely on the legitimate right to privacy as is protected by the European Union Convention on Human Rights .Point three is that nowhere does the OECD suggest the cost of implementation of CRS should be a first charge on tax revenues collected. If it were since the tax revenues will be statistically irrelevant the CRS project would disintegrate and no doubt before the European Union .Point four is that the European Union is no doubt a dead zone for Bahamian business and no one should take its black list seriously in any event .

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alfalfa 5 years, 1 month ago

Those concessions made by Ingraham, virtually ruined our offshore banking industry, created unemployment, and made it unbearably difficult for Bahamians to bank in their own country. What did we get in return?

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sealice 5 years, 1 month ago

our dumb ass racist politicians probably think the black list is a good thing. . . . at least it's not white!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 1 month ago

All of this never ending blacklisting after black listing after blacklisting is tantamount to the unlawful imposition of economic sanctions against the Bahamas by elitist organizations that have a deceitfully hideous self-serving agenda aimed at creating a New World Order to fulfill the ambition of global rule. The blacklisting is designed to mercilessly cripple our smaller (defenseless) developing nation so that other much larger developed nations (like the OECD countries) can much more easily exploit for themselves (and at much less cost to themselves) our natural resources, including our utility enterprises. Already the blacklisters have moved from our shores to their shores, and within their own borders, much of the very lucrative and thriving offshore financial business that we enjoyed prior to the 1990s. Successive Bahamian governments and the brightest minds in our legal and banking communities have just stood by and allowed this nonsense to continue. From the late 1980's we have allowed ourselves to be wrongfully labelled as facilitating foreign nationals to evade payment of the taxes they owe in their home countries. But as a tax friendly jurisdiction of our own sovereign choosing, we have never had, nor should we ever be expected to have, a duty to help police and protect the tax base of other countries at our expense. All of this foolishness was absurd from the outset. As the OECD countries increase the tax burden on their citizenry to unreasonable levels, they force an increase in our burden and expense of policing and protecting their unreasonably high tax bases. The blacklisters and the international lending agencies are working together to turn the Bahamas into a high taxing jurisdiction so that they can then claim their so called hideous exchange of tax information agreements have validity through reciprocity, i.e. they will in turn help the Bahamas police and protect its own tax base. But all of this blacklisting foolishness is nothing but an effort to disguise the blacklisters' true agenda, which is the wrongful stealing of our financial services economy and our other natural resources for their own benefit to the detriment of the standard of living and quality of life of all Bahamians.

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Reality_Check 5 years, 1 month ago

The OECD countries also don't like the idea that we have an exchange control regime with the Bahamian dollar supposedly still pegged at par against the U.S. dollar. They would like nothing more than to see our country destabilized (as a result of their ever increasing burdensome requirements) to the point where our Bahamian dollar is significantly devalued and made to float against the U.S. dollar. This is their ultimate goal which will allow them and their greedy corporate interest groups to acquire our natural resources, utility enterprises, etc. at bargain basement prices, leaving the Bahamian people to be nothing but economic slaves for their new foreign masters!

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banker 5 years, 1 month ago

There are 35 member countries of the OECD. The only super powers not represented are Russia and China. Here is the list:

Australia Austria Belgium Canada Chile Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Israel Italy Japan Latvia Luxembourg Mexico Netherlands New Zealand Norway Poland Portugal Slovakia Slovenia South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland Turkey United Kingdom United States

The member countries are the most highly developed countries in the world, and they simple want their citizens/residents to pay their taxes to support the country. Simple. No new world order -- whatever that conspiracy theory is. No ganging up on the under-developed countries.

The bottom line is that if you have to live in proximity to a gorilla (the OECD) you can do one of two things -- you can play nice with it, or you can poke it. You choose your course of action and take the consequences.

As someone in the financial services industry, I have seen capital under management decline precipitously, and not because of OECD but rather through a spectrum of things, ranging from FATCA, to the John Doe Summons, to 9/11 terrorist funding, to the transparency of the global movement of money from criminal oligarchs and drug runners. A big part is the tightening of tax loopholes in the member countries. A billionaire that was a client of our book of business, sold everything and moved back to Europe and decided to pay taxes. It wasn't worth the hassle to complicate his life and his family's life, and daily life in the Bahamas was way too small for a man as rich as he.

Of the bankers and financial advisors under indictment from 2008 Joe Doe action on the Swiss banks, more than half of them remain fugitives from justice.

The Bahamas has always not played ball, with the highest profile case of not extraditing Viktor Kozeny - the Pirate of Prague. In the past Swindling protected Robert Vesco for large bribes.

As a country, we need to grow up, and play in the big boys league instead of penny ante in the tax evasion game. Unfortunately the world changed and we didn't recognise it, and now we can't catch up even if we wanted to remediate our financial services. Fooked.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 1 month ago

The only thing you've done here is confirm that you will sing for your supper as a banker in the Bahamas no matter what......right up until the soon to come end when you suddenly realize you have no supper to sing for!

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banker 5 years, 1 month ago

Actually, saw the light years ago. Transitioning from wealth management to securities and derivatives trading (still with some family offices, but not exclusively).

The whole industry has been transitioned, but because of our insularity in the global situation, we are just realising it now. Ingraham saw the writing on the wall when we were previously blacklisted. The situation is akin to our very past when the Arawak and Lucayans tried to fight the Europeans with bows and arrows and sticks and stones. The Europeans had guns, and cannons and gunpowder. No contest. Where are the Lucayans now? Extinct. I concur that there will be no supper, but it een because we didn't throw enough stones, It is because of the thundering cannons of the OECD and G7 who started the conquest years ago. It is amazing that we lasted this long. It's very Darwinian. Smart ones adapt and ignorant ones die off.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 1 month ago

Sorry to hear you will be dying off.

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killemwitdakno 5 years, 1 month ago

Shut uP. Tell them we don't have the infrastructure after the storms. Name another country that had every corner hit.

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Economist 5 years, 1 month ago

The reality is that we are a very, very small country and we are dealing with 20 countries much bigger than we are, and they are working together against us.

We made a decision in 1972 (voted for) to go independent. We knew that there would be a down side not being part of a much bigger country.

We knew that we could get pushed around. We knew that just because we were a sovereign nation did not mean that we could do as we liked without consequences.

This is one of those matters that we are required to look at rationally and see how best to minimize the impact of whatever we decide to do.

Either way there are going to be consequences.

This is what being independent is all about.

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