The Bahama has been spared being blacklisted by the European Union, although five Caribbean countries have not been able to avoid the blacklist of tax havens that are not compliant with the EU standards.
Countries like Barbados, Grenada, Panama, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago were among those black- listed. However, due to the damage, destruction and deaths of the past hurricane season, the screening process for other jurisdictions like the Bahamas, Antigua, and Barbuda, Anguilla, The British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos, The U.S. Virgin Islands were put on hold.
Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest said it’s expected that contact will be made with those jurisdictions by February 2018 with the view to resolve those concerns by the end of next year.
“In our case reviewing the concerns listed by the OECD with respect to the non-cooperative countries listed, we are heartened by the fact that our proactive actions and positive discussions with the OECD qualifies us as a cooperative jurisdiction and deserving of our status, irrespective of hurricanes or disruptions,” Turnquest said.
The blacklisted countries could lose access to EU funds.
To ensure the Bahamas stays off the EU and other blacklists, the government tabled a number of bills for amendment in the House of Assembly.
The Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Regulations, the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Bill and the International Tax Cooperation Bill were debated.
The amendments were passed with full support from both government and opposition MP’s.
The Deputy Prime Minister lead the debate stating that these bills seek to satisfy requirements for The Bahamas to be eligible to be invited to ratify the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in tax matters.
“It provides for the full implementation of the common reporting standards, enhance the legal framework to allow for the exchange of financial accounting information by September 2018 and to prevent The Bahamas from being placed on the European Union’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes,” Turnquest said.
The minister said although it seems that they have to constantly amend laws to adapt to the changing international demand for cooperation and transparency in tax matters, making those amendments are gravely important as they can affect investment.
“A large part of our economy is dependent on Foreign Direct Investment. It’s dependent on our ability to earn foreign currency in order to facilitate four cross-border trade, pay for the food that we consume and other durable goods that we use in our everyday life like oil/gas.
“Everything that we consume or most of what we consume locally, we need foreign currency to be able to trade,” Turnquest said.
The Prime Minister in a statement, acknowledged that the local Financial Services Industry has for some time been under threat, but that since assuming office, his government has been working to get the economy back on track.
This he said calls for strengthening legislation which is why they debated and passed the bill amendments.