Bermuda not committed to tax deal

By added on 13/06/2013

David Cameron's G8 agenda to close down cross-border tax evasion dealt blow by Bermuda prime minister Craig Cannonier, reports the Guardian.

David Cameron’s G8 agenda to close down cross-border tax evasion is under threat after the premier of Bermuda, a UK overseas territory, said he would not sign up this weekend to a multilateral agreement on the sharing of tax information.

Campaign groups called on Cameron to use his constitutional powers to order Britain's overseas territories to comply, saying the prime minister had to clear up the tax havens in his own backyard before chairing the summit of G8 world leaders on Monday and Tuesday in Northern Ireland. Cameron has made an agreement on tax transparency one of the central goals of the G8.

No 10 said it was still hopeful that Bermuda would reconsider its public stance. The Bermudan prime minister, Craig Cannonier, has been asked to a meeting in London on Saturday of all the overseas territories to sign an existing OECD international agreement on tax information exchange – seen as the best way of developing co-operation between authorities to chase down companies and individuals seeking to avoid paying tax.

More than 80 countries have already signed the agreement.

Cannonier said the territories were ready to agree that wider sharing of information with international tax authorities was required in principle, but that Cameron's aim of having them all commit to signing the convention at the weekend was unlikely to be achieved. "My understanding is that we are not here to sign something, but simply to agree that everyone needs to get on par."

He said the territories had held conference calls before their meeting with UK ministers in London this week and none had expressed a willingness to commit to signing the convention.

A spokesman for the Cayman Islands government said it had agreed on Friday to commit to an intention to sign the convention. No 10 said it expected most of the overseas territories and crown dependencies will sign up.

Cameron is hoping to persuade G8 countries to sign agreements that would expose the identity, or true beneficial ownership of companies in shell firms. But he is meeting resistance from Canada, Russia and the US over aspects of the deal.

He has not said whether he would prefer registers of beneficial ownership to be available to the general public or instead just national tax authorities. Anti-corruption campaigners say the public should be given access.

He is due to meet the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, in London on Thursday.

Cameron said: "I believe we've got a real opportunity to make this a turning point where we break down the walls of corporate secrecy, by trying to agree some of the following: new standards to uncover who really owns and controls each company; second, automatic exchange of information between tax authorities, including about beneficial ownership; and then more to tackle aggressive tax avoidance by driving reform of the international tax rules so they reflect today's globalised economy.

"And also identifying ways to make sure companies report where they earn their profits and where they pay their tax."