Conditions on Ragged Island after Hurricane Irma.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas was yesterday warned not to “rest on our laurels” after it escaped the European Union’s “blacklist” largely thanks to Hurricane Irma.
While the financial services industry and wider economy “dodged a potential bullet”, this resulted from the EU Council taking pity on the nation as a result of damage inflicted during the recent hurricane season.
The House of Assembly today will debate amendments to finance laws as the government seeks to satisfy requirements for ratifying the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, something Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest is expected to sign when he visits San Marino next week.
The Bahamas has long faced pressure to join other countries in the region and world in becoming a signatory to the agreement. The Free National Movement (FNM), shortly after the May general election, revealed its intention to do so, going against the Progressive Liberal Party’s policy.
The Christie administration argued that the multilateral approach is more applicable to countries which have direct taxation regimes, unlike the Bahamas.
During the recent House of Assembly session on the Commercial Enterprises Bill, Financial Services Minister Brent Symonette said while the bilateral approach the PLP supported is legitimate, the previous administration did not sign enough of such agreements in a particular timeframe to satisfy requirements, prompting the Minnis administration’s need to sign the multilateral agreement.
Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said during yesterday’s weekly briefing that parliamentarians will today debate amendments to the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Act, the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Regulations and the International Tax Cooperation Act.
Once passed, the government will have an enhanced legal framework to allow for the automatic exchange of financial account information by September 2018, he said.
“All of what I just mentioned has a single goal and endgame: to prevent the Bahamas from being placed on the European Union’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes,” he said. “That simply means avoiding being blacklisted.
“Now it is important for these bills to be passed so that when the minister of finance travels to San Marino next week, he will have the authority to (sign the agreement).”
The Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters aims to tackle tax evasion and avoidance.