By NATARIO McKENZIE
THE Bahamas hopes to stay "ahead of the curve" and avoid any potential blacklisting by signing on to several parts of the OECD's Common Reporting Standard (CRS) in the next few weeks.
Brent Symonettte, minister of financial services, trade and industry and Immigration, told Tribune Business that he and Deputy Prime Minister, K Peter Turnquest, are expected to fly to Europe next week. "There is rumor out there that a number of jurisdictions may be blacklisted," he said.
"The Bahamas is, to the best of our knowledge, not on the list. The Deputy Prime Minister and I are flying to San Marino where we will be signing various parts of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), so we hope to stay ahead of that curve and therefore will not be included. I have not heard the OECD or anyone saying the Bahamas is on the list. There are rumors that some countries may be, but for the moment we are not dealing with that issue."
In the wake of revelations about alleged tax dodging, via the so-called Panama Papers or Paradise Papers, the European Union (EU) has discussed several measures to crack down on avoidance, including an EU-wide list of tax havens. As many as 36 countries could reportedly be 'named and shamed' in the list, which is due to be published by the European Union tomorrow.
Back in April, Monica Bhatia, who leads the secretariat for the OECD's Global Forum on transparency and tax information exchange, told Bahamian financial services executives 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".
The Bahamas had initially sought to comply with the OECD's CRS, the global standard for automatic tax information exchange, via a bilateral approach that would have involved sharing details on a country-by-country basis.
However, it came under heavy media and international pressure, inspired by the OECD and its surrogates, to switch to the multilateral approach which involves information exchange with all-comers.
The Bahamas was also left exposed by the likes of Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) switching from the bilateral to the multilateral method, resulting in this nation being branded the global 'holdout' amid thinly-veiled 'blacklisting' threats by the European Union (EU) and OECD.
The Government has since decided to sign on to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.