By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas has "little choice" but to comply with the European Union's (EU) demands given its economic model, the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday.
K P Turnquest, who tabled three Bills that will enable the Bahamas to adopt the multilateral approach to automatic tax information exchange, said: "The OECD and its member states are deadly serious about the actions they intend to take, with talk of 'defensive' measures to be implemented against what they deem non-cooperative jurisdictions to encourage compliance with their wishes. "Considering our need for foreign direct investment, foreign currency and corresponding banking relationships to effect cross-border trade or to import food, oil, etc, the reality is we have little choice but to comply in a responsible way."
The Government yesterday tabled and passed the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (Amendment) Bill 2017, Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (Amendment ) Regulations 2017, and the International Tax Cooperation (Amendment) Bill 2017.
Mr Turnquest said that on Tuesday the EU had issued its Council's conclusions on the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.
"Notably on that list were several Caribbean countries, including Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, along with Panama and others," he said. "In omitting the Bahamas, the OECD expressed its sympathy and support to the jurisdictions in the Caribbean region that were severely struck by devastating storms in September 2017, causing casualties and major damage to key infrastructure.
"It holds the view that the screening process should be put on hold for these jurisdictions (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands). Nevertheless, the Code of Conduct Group should, by February 2018, pursue further contacts with these jurisdictions, with the view to resolving these concerns by the end of 2018," continued Mr Turnquest.
"In our case, reviewing the concerns listed by the OECD with respect to the non-cooperative countries listed, we are heartened by the fact that our proactive actions and positive discussions with the OECD further qualifies us as a cooperative jurisdiction and deserving of our status irrespective of hurricanes. Our commitments to be a well-regulated and transparent jurisdiction will be further communicated next week when the Minister for Financial Services and I travel to Europe to sign the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement."