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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Historical Anecdotes of Tax Information Exchange (continued)

Posted by William Byrnes on October 22, 2009

This week I continue in my historical anecdotes leading back up to the subject of cross-border tax (financial) information exchange and cross-border tax collection.  In this blogticle I turn to the FATF, Edwards and KPMG reports, OECD and Offshore Group of Bank Supervisors.  In our live webinars, Marshall Langer will continue to address these issues indepthly.

1990 – 2001 Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

In 1990, the FATF established forty recommendations as an initiative to combat the misuse of financial systems by persons laundering drug money. In 1996, the FATF revised its forty recommendations to address “evolving money laundering typologies”.  The 1996 forty recommendations developed into the international anti-money laundering standard, having been endorsed by more than 130 countries.  In 2001, because of 9/11, the FATF issued eight terrorist financing special recommendations to combat the funding of terrorist acts and terrorist organizations.  Regarding the micro-economies, the activities of the Offshore Group of Banking Supervisors (OGBS) have lead to agreement with the FATF on ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the money-laundering laws and policies of its members. The difficulty is that only about a half of offshore banking centers are members of OGBS.

See the FATF Methods and Trends page for detailed typologies.

1999 Review Of Financial Regulation In The Crown Dependencies (Edwards Report)

In 1999 and 2000, the UK government in association with the governments of its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories assessed the territories financial regulations against international standards and good practice, as well as make recommendations for improvement where any territory fell beneath the standards.  In general the reports concluded that the regulatory regimes were good, given limited resources, but that significant further resources had to be employed.  The primary conclusions of the reports included:

(1) employment of more regulatory resources,

(2) establish an independent regulatory body in each jurisdiction,

(3) maintain records of bearer share ownership,

(4) allow disclosure of beneficial owners’ names to regulators for possible onward transmittal to other jurisdiction’s regulators, and

(5) expand company disclosure with regard to the directors.

2000 KPMG Review Of Financial Regulation in The Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda

In 2000, the UK government in association with the governments of the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda commissioned the London office of KPMG to assess the territories financial regulations against international standards and good practice, as well as make recommendations for improvement where any territory fell beneath the standards.  A brief example summary for Anguilla and British Virgin Islands (BVI) is below.


KPMG commented that while Anguilla’s offshore regulatory operations are “well-run by skilled officers”, KPMG critiqued that the regulatory operations were not fully in accordance with international standards.  KPMG’s principal recommendations for regulatory refinement were: 

  • Shift responsibility for offshore financial services from the Governor back to the Minister of Finance, specifically the Director of the Financial Services Department.
  • Fight money laundering and other fraud by keeping records of bearer share ownership, allowing, where necessary the disclosure of the owners’ names to Anguilla’s regulators for possible onward transmittal to other jurisdiction’s regulators.
  • Expand the IBC disclosure by including director’s names in the Articles of Incorporation as well as empowering the Registrar of Companies to apply for a Court appointed inspector.
  • Require partnerships to maintain financial records.
  • Enact a new insurance law.
  • Amend the 1994 Fraudulent Dispositions and 1994 Trust Act’s disclosure requirements to prevent insertion in trust documents of clauses hampering legitimate creditors or restricting official investigations.

 The KPMG Report concluded that Anguilla’s ACORN electronic company registration system “enhanced” the regulatory environment.

British Virgin Islands

KPMG commented that while BVI’s offshore regulatory operations are well run, KPMG pointed out that the regulatory operations were not fully in accordance with international standards.  KPMG’s principal recommendations for regulatory refinement were: 

  • Consolidating control of offshore financial services in an independent Financial Services Department (which was renamed the Financial Services Commission), which at the time functioned as the regulatory authority. This required devolving powers of licensing, regulation and supervision from the Governor in Council, composed of the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Minister, and four Ministers.  KPMG urged the FSD to give up its marketing activities.  In 2002 this activity was hived off and reposed in a newly established BVI International Financial Centre.
  • Grant the Registrar of Companies power to initiate an investigation of a company and petition the courts to wind up an IBC.
  • Establish standards, based upon the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, for supervision of mutual funds, drafting a regulatory code affecting all securities and investment ventures, and increasing the Registrar of Mutual Funds’ enforcement powers.
  • Enact enforceable codes of practice for company and trust service providers and increase the supervisor’s regulatory powers.

Influenced by international reports concerning combating money laundering, the BVI passed legislation restricting the anonymity and mobility of bearer shares through requiring them to be held by a licensed financial institution. The anonymity of directors was reduced by requiring information about them to be filed preferably in the Company Registry in the jurisdiction.

2000 Improving Access To Bank Information For Tax Purposes (OECD)

In 2000, the OECD issued Improving Access to Bank Information for Tax Purposes.  The 2000 OECD Report acknowledged that banking secrecy is “widely recognised as playing a legitimate role in protecting the confidentiality of the financial affairs of individuals and legal entities”.  This Report focused on improving exchange of information pursuant to a specific request for information related to a particular taxpayer.  In this regard, it noted that pursuant to its 1998 Report, 32 jurisdictions had already made political commitments to engage in effective exchange of information for criminal tax matters for tax periods starting from 1 January 2004 and for civil tax matters for tax periods starting from 2006.  We have already covered the corresponding TIEAs established in light of this report in a previous blogticle hereunder.   Black/White and Grey lists will be covered in a future blogticle.

2002 Offshore Group Of Banking Supervisors Statement Of Best Practices

In 2002, the OGBS formed a working group to establish a statement of best practices for company and trust service providers. The working group included representatives from the micro-economies of Bahamas, Bermuda, B.V.I., Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Isle of Man an Jersey and from the OECD members   France, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K., as well as the relevant NGOs of the FATF, IMF, and OECD.  The terms of reference of the working groups was to “To produce a recommended statement of minimum standards/guidance for Trust and Company Service Providers; and to consider and make recommendations to the Offshore Group of Banking Supervisors for transmission to all relevant international organisations/authorities on how best to ensure that the recommended minimum standards/guidance are adopted as an international standard and implemented on a global basis”.

The Working Group concluded: “There should be proper provision for holding, having access to and sharing of information, including ensuring that – 

       (i)  information  on the ultimate beneficial owner and/or controllers of companies, partnerships and other legal entities, and the trustees, settlor, protector/beneficiaries of trusts is known to the service provider and is properly recorded;

       (ii) any change of client control/ownership is promptly monitored (e.g. in particular where a service provider is administering a corporate vehicle in the form of a “shelf” company or where bearer shares or nominee share holdings are involved); 

       (iii) there is an adequate, effective and appropriate mechanism in place for information to be made available to all the relevant authorities (i.e. law enforcement authorities, regulatory bodies, FIU’s); 

       (iv) there should be no barrier to the appropriate flow of information to the authorities referred to in 3 (iii) above; 

       (v) KYC and transactions information  regarding the clients of the Service Provider is maintained in the jurisdiction in which the Service Provider is located; 

       (vi) there should be no legal or administrative barrier to the flow of information/documentation necessary for the recipient of business from a Service Provider who is an acceptable introducer to satisfy itself that adequate customer due diligence has been undertaken in accordance with the arrangements set out in the Basel Customer Due Diligence paper.

Please contact me with any comments or follow up research materials.  Prof. William Byrnes wbyrnes@tjsl.edu

2 Responses to “Historical Anecdotes of Tax Information Exchange (continued)”

  1. I’ve been involved in taxes for longer then I care to admit, both on the personal side (all my working life!!) and from a legal standpoint since passing the bar and pursuing tax law. I’ve provided a lot of advice and righted a lot of wrongs, and I must say that what you’ve posted makes perfect sense. Please keep up the good work – the more people know the better they’ll be equipped to deal with the tax man, and that’s what it’s all about.


  2. cyprus tax said

    Nice article, and thanks for the summary.
    I think I will draw people’s attention to what you have posted as there are so many misconceptions about the subject and the above mentioned destinations.
    Though obviously nobody (large or small company) would have taken the responsability to comment too differently about economies that base a high share of their income on investments deriving from tax reduction.


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