BIBA: Time to talk tax havens
BARBADOS’ CONTROVERSIAL BLACKLISTING by a group of European Union (EU) countries is “hypocritical” and “grossly discriminatory”, says outgoing Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) president Connie Smith.
But Smith also thinks the time is right for “engaging in bilateral discussions which could hopefully conclude in double taxation agreements and bilateral investment treaties with a number of them”.
On June 17, the European Commission issued a list of 30 countries, including Barbados, which it said were considered tax havens by several states members.
Smith challenged the integrity of the EU’s decision to name Barbados among those being non-cooperative and the further claim that the group of 30 “do not meet its standards of transparency, exchange of information and fair tax competition”.
“Do any of the EU member states have any major tax investigations with any companies domiciled in Barbados or have they made a request for any tax information that has not been provided?” she queried.
“It should be noted, for example, that we do not have any active trading arrangements with a number of the EU member states that blacklisted Barbados, including Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia, and Bulgaria.”
She also questioned the partiality of the list when it came to some of their own EU members.
“First of all, it does not mention Luxembourg, Ireland or the Netherlands who are currently under investigation by the EU competition authorities for facilitating aggressive tax avoidance,” said Smith.
“It is alleged that Luxembourg, for example, had entered into 548 private tax rulings to allow over 300 of the largest companies in the world to avoid paying taxes in EU countries,” she pointed out.
However, the international business practitioner also saw the latest controversy as an ideal opportunity to re-position Barbados with those that considered it appropriate to tarnish us”.
“I would very much like to have Barbados enter into discussions with those EU member states who have so listed us, with a view of gathering details as to why they placed Barbados on a blacklist and what criteria they used to arrive at this assessment; and engaging in bilateral discussions which could hopefully conclude in double taxation agreements and bilateral investment treaties with a number of them,” she said.
The BIBA president also believed that the “[Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s] Global Forum meeting to be held in Barbados later this year gives us a grand opportunity to infuse that important global body with a better understanding of Barbados as a credible international business and financial services centre and the value it adds to global trade and to the economies of the developed world as the findings of Professor Walid Hejazi of the Rotman School of Business”.
Smith was happy with the OECD’s Centre For Tax Policy’s response to the blacklist. That organisation reiterated that “the only agreeable assessment of countries as regards their cooperation is made by the OECD’s Global Forum”.
As part of its efforts to keep the international business community in Barbados informed on the regulatory environment which is continuously being enhanced, BIBA will be hosting an International Business Update Seminar on July 9 at the Savannah Hotel. It will be focussed on “burning topical issues and will bring sharp focus on the legislation put in place to ensure that Barbados’ business environment is on par with international best practices”. (SC/PR)