No kudos for EU tax compliance

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne announced that TT was making progress toward being removed from the European Union's (EU) blacklist of countries deemed non-compliant for tax purposes.

Dr Browne described the situation as having "some adverse impact" on financial and trading relationships with EU countries.

The consequences of the blacklisting are in fact significant.

By November 2018, the banking community was feeling the pinch of non-compliance when Bankers Association president Nigel Baptiste noted that the country's inability to respond appropriately to due diligence measures was either slowing down the rate of business transactions or ending them by financial de-risking.

It increasingly fell to domestic commercial banks to demonstrate a commitment to meeting international standards for compliance and establish procedures mandating such controls.

Rather surprisingly, Dr Browne found time in his response to blame the 2010-2015 UNC regime for failing to address Global Forum peer reviews and their requirements.

That position skips boldly over the reality that TT has known of the pending blacklist since October 2017, when Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi announced that the EU placed the country on a list of countries with a "harmful preferential tax regime."

TT is specifically called out on the blacklist as a nation with "major transparency concerns."

Political pouting didn't help.

Returning from a Caricom heads of government meeting in March 2018, the Prime Minister lamented the EU's hardline position, saying, "We did not expect the EU to treat us like that."

This country is behind on addressing four areas of compliance: the requirements of the Global Forum, the OECD BEPS Inclusive Framework, transparency in beneficial ownership information for legal arrangements and the administrative fines regime outlined in recommendation 35 of the Financial Action Task Force.

The PM is correct to note that there are some aspects of the EU's position that border on bullying. The EU wants things done its way, with increasingly severe penalties for non-compliant countries.

But the EU's requirements are part of participating in an increasingly globalised world, which expects trading nations to meet the reporting standards of transparency and accountability implemented in their countries for taxation and financial systems – in this case, the entire EU financial bloc.

The situation has been described by financial professionals as having been wholly avoidable.

Many local companies doing business with global multinationals are already familiar with these requirements, which include Sarbanes-Oxley reporting standards in the US.

Relying on political posturings of goodwill and earnest effort will amount to nothing in this situation.

The Government has dragged its feet on implementing effective legislation to meet the increasingly stringent global rules for cross-border financial relationships, and it must do better, faster.


"No kudos for EU tax compliance"

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