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UK And Bermuda Sign TIEA

by Jeremy Hetherington-Gore,, London

05 December 2007

After more than three years of discussions, the UK and Bermuda finally this week exchanged letters setting up an arrangement for the exchange of tax information. The letters passed between Meg Munn, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Paula Cox, Bermudian Minister of Finance.

The key paragraphs of the agreement say:

  • The competent authority of the requested Territory shall provide upon request information (that is relevant to the administration or enforcement of the domestic laws of the Territories) concerning taxes covered by this Arrangement. Such information shall be exchanged without regard to whether the conduct being investigated would constitute a crime under the laws of the requested Territory if such conduct occurred in the requested Territory.
  • If the information in the possession of the competent authority of the requested Territory is not sufficient to enable it to comply with the request for information, the requested Territory shall use all relevant information gathering measures to provide the applicant Territory with the information requested, notwithstanding that the requested Territory may not need such information for its own tax purposes.
  • If specifically requested by the competent authority of the applicant Territory, the competent authority of the requested Territory shall provide information under this Paragraph, to the extent allowable under its domestic laws, in the form of depositions of witnesses and authenticated copies of original records.
  • Each Territory shall ensure that its competent authority, for the purposes of this Arrangement, has the authority to obtain and provide upon request:
    (a) information held by banks, other financial institutions, and any person, including nominees and trustees, acting in an agency or fiduciary capacity;
    (b) information regarding the ownership of companies, partnerships and other persons, including, within the constraints of Paragraph 2, ownership information on all such persons in an ownership chain; in the case of trusts, information on settlors, trustees, beneficiaries and the position in an ownership chain.

This document therefore commits the UK government to be able to obtain requested information from banks and trustees, regardless of whether any crime has been committed, and, needless to say, without the knowledge of the subject of an investigation or any requirement for a court order.

This egregious attack on the privacy of individuals and companies was hailed by the OECD as marking another step forward in international efforts to implement the principles of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.

This is the first such arrangement entered into by the United Kingdom and the third concluded by Bermuda. The arrangement, says the OECD, confirms Bermuda’s commitment to high international standards and its stature as a responsible international financial centre.

In a press release from HM Revenue & Customs, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jane Kennedy also welcomed the arrangement, saying: “These new arrangements represent a significant step in our efforts to counter and prevent tax evasion and avoidance. I commend the Government of Bermuda for its willingness to implement the high standards of transparency and exchange of information to which it is committed and for its continuing leadership in this important global tax policy area.”

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