Making tax info public not right, says expert

By added on 06/02/2014

A leading tax expert has said it was inappropriate for information regarding an international tax inquiry into a trio of Microsoft-linked affiliates to be made public, reports the Bermuda Sun.

According to filings at Bermuda Supreme Court, Flat Island Company, RI Holdings, and Round Island One are all the subject of a tax inquiry.

Linda E. Carlisle, a tax attorney with the Washington D.C. firm Miller Chevalier, who formerly worked for the US Treasury Department, said: “I would think it was inappropriate for that information to be made public.

“It’s government-to-government communication and it’s taxpayer information. When you file a return, you don’t expect that information to be publicized. In the US, it’s against the law.”

The trio of cases represent a rare glimpse into what is usually a secretive process. Other countries can seek details of Bermuda-based financial entities under a Tax Information Exchange Agreement — or TIEA — agreement. Those applications, however, are almost never made public.

It’s unclear which country made this request. The existence of the cases was first uncovered by OffShoreAlert, a Miami-based publication run by David Marchant, who during the 1990s was a reporter in Bermuda. He credits a clerical lapse for the discovery of the inquiries.

“Each application was clearly entered into the case book, and therefore the public domain, by mistake, as evidenced by the fact that as soon as OffShoreAlert publicized their existence, they were quickly removed,” said Mr Marchant.

He added, “I monitor Bermuda court filings on a weekly basis and I’ve done so for years. I cannot recall ever seeing TIEA-related applications before.