(L-R) Richard Been, Revenue Counsel; Kenisha Bacchus, Senior Head and Legal Counsel for the Financial Services Commission; Rhondalee Brathwaite-Knowles, Deputy Attorney General; Athenee Harvey, Permanent Secretary, Finance; Henry Saunders, Director of the Exchange of Information Unit.
The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is well on track to meet its international obligations on tax transparency, claimed the territory's deputy attorney general on Tuesday.
Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles led a team of officials to a meeting of the Global Forum on Tax Transparency's Peer Review Group to consider the Phase 2 Assessment of the Islands and proposed ratings.
The Peer Review Group met in Paris, France, from 1-9 October 2013 to review each of the participating countries' assessment reports, including the proposed ratings for 50 countries, to ensure transparency and effective exchange of information.
The Global Forum Peer Review Process provides the TCI a mechanism to assess and confirm its compliance with the international standard for exchange of information regimes. Such independent assessments and confirmations serve to instill confidence for investment and business as a positive assessment demonstrates a well regulated regime.
By December 2013, the TCI will have a network of exchange of information arrangements covering 58 partners. TCI’s participation in this process complements the UK's announced platform for greater transparency in relation to beneficial information as chair of the G8 summit earlier this year which saw international agreement to improve tax transparency, and especially for the UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to shake off dated and inaccurate perceptions of them as ‘tax havens’.
For the past five years the TCI has had a team of key function working to ensure that the Territory meets its international commitments to tax transparency. It includes Athenee Harvey, Permanent Secretary, Finance; Henry Saunders, Director of the Exchange of Information Unit; Richard Been, Revenue Counsel; and Kenisha Bacchus, Senior Head and Legal Counsel for the Financial Services Commission.
The standards are primarily reflected in the 2002 OECD Model Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters and its commentary, and in Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital and its commentary as updated in 2004. The standards have also been incorporated into the UN Model Tax Convention.
Through an in-depth peer review process, the Global Forum monitors that its members fully implement the standard of transparency and exchange of information they have committed to implement. It also works to establish a level playing field, even among countries that have not joined the Global Forum.
The standards provide for international exchange on request of foreseeably relevant information for the administration or enforcement of the domestic tax laws of a requesting party. ‘Fishing expeditions’ are not authorised but all foreseeably relevant information must be provided, including bank information and information held by fiduciaries, regardless of the existence of a domestic tax interest or the application of a dual criminality standard.
"We are very pleased with how the jurisdiction has performed during this process and we are pleased with the outcome," said Harvey, "we received strong international validation of our regime. I would like to thank the entire TCI team, from both the public and private sectors, who have helped us reach this crucial stage.”
Braithwaite-Knowles added, "The final step in the process is for the draft review reports and ratings to be circulated to the Global Forum for written adoption. During this time, the documents and outcome from the Peer Review Group remain confidential and subject to final adoption. The formal adoption of the Phase 2 report and ratings of the TCI will be announced in November after the next meeting of the Global Forum set for Jakarta Indonesia."
The Global Forum now has 120 members on equal footing and is the premier international body for ensuring the implementation of the internationally agreed standards of transparency and exchange of information in the tax area.