Government tabled bills yesterday that will help to keep The Bahamas off the blacklists of the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The bills passed unanimously in the House of Assembly.
The amendments to the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Bill, 2017; Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Regulations, and the International Tax Cooperation Bill, 2017 clarify and expand The Bahamas’ existing legislative framework on the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) in order to facilitate this country’s move to become a jurisdiction compliant with EU and OECD rules.
The Bahamas decided in June 2017 to become a signatory to the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) in order to avoid being placed on any sort of blacklist.
It was reported this week that The Bahamas narrowly escaped being added to an EU blacklist. The EU spared The Bahamas from being listed because this country has been trying to pick itself back up following the passage of Hurricane Irma.
The bills replace words and phrases that bring The Bahamas’ laws as it relates to tax exchange up to standard with other compliant jurisdictions. In this regard, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette said in the House of Assembly yesterday, that The Bahamas is leading the way in the Caribbean in becoming a compliant jurisdiction. Several of this country’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbors were mentioned in the EU’s recent blacklist.
The nation’s move to greater compliance calls for “The Bahamas to fully implement the CRS and adopt the multilateral approach to AEOI”, notes the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Bill.
“Pending accession of The Bahamas to the convention, CRS implementation will continue to take place on a bilateral basis under new or amended TIEAs (tax information exchange agreements),” the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Bill explains.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday in the House of Assembly that the government has been proactive in its actions and has had positive discussions with the OECD.
“This further qualifies us as a cooperative jurisdiction and deserving of our status irrespective of hurricane,” he said.
“Our commitments to be a well-regulated and transparent jurisdiction will be further communicated next week when the minister of financial services and I travel to Europe to sign the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement.”
There are also amendments in the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Bill that strengthen compliance and enforcement through offenses and penalties if the act is breached.
Member of Parliament for Long Island Adrian Gibson warned the government not to give too much away in the rush to become a compliant jurisdiction, suggesting that The Bahamas is already an extremely compliant jurisdiction.
“The Bahamas is not a tax haven,” he said.
“As it stands, The Bahamas is already compliant with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering and counter terrorism financing, and subject to various reviews. Currently, countries such as ours comply with FATF guidelines more than the United States itself which, in 2006, was found to not be in compliance with ‘entity transparency’ and ‘gatekeeper rules’.”