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Govt focused on compliance following latest OECD attack

Bethel: ‘Clear and present’ danger for the country’s financial services sector
Carl Bethel.

The Bahamas cannot continue to incur reputational damage as a result of being continually labeled a tax haven, Attorney General Carl Bethel said recently, adding that there is a “clear and present” danger for the country’s financial services sector if the government does not act to become a compliant jurisdiction. The new financial climate in the country and the world means The Bahamas may have to look at new corporate tax structures as well, he said.

Bethel, who was speaking at a seminar hosted by law firm Higgs & Johnson, added that the country continues to be at risk of losing correspondent bank relationships, should its reputation be besmirched if it is included on a blacklist of non-compliant financial territories by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and G20 countries.

Bethel assured the professionals in the room that the government has begun engagement in earnest on base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), yet another set of conventions offshore financial jurisdictions have to comply with in order to avoid being blacklisted.

“We first have to survive in order to compete,” said Bethel. “No jurisdiction can withstand perpetual reputational damage.”

He said the country is looking closely at what the mandates of the minimum standards for BEPS are, to ensure The Bahamas can quickly become compliant.

“The Bahamas will do all that is necessary to prevent any further negative listing by an international organization,” Bethel said.

“We are in close contact with officials and are taking a measured approach.”

The financial services sector recently held an important meeting of all its stakeholders, which brought together Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, Bethel and Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette, to give a briefing to the sector about where The Bahamas stands on BEPS, as this country has to make a commitment to the OECD and G20 before the end of the year.

Symonette said the government, in consultation with financial services industry representatives, has gone over the 15 action points needed for compliance with BEPS standards as outlined by the OECD, and have concluded that The Bahamas can sign on to at least four for the time being, which will mean the country will meet the minimum standard accepted by the OECD.


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