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The decision to publish a list of offshore jurisdictions that fail to comply with international financial regulations will spur a flight to quality according to a number of lawyers operating in the Channel Islands.
Earlier this month the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) listed 38 countries and territories that have, as it said, “committed to the internationally agreed tax standard, but have not yet substantially implemented the measures”.
There was heightened concern about which jurisdictions would appear on the so-called grey list following a torrent of political rhetoric about tax evasion in the build up to the G20 summit.
However, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man breathed a collective sigh of relief when they found themselves off the white list. There was backslapping all round.
“It’s excellent news and gives us credit for all the work we’ve to done to become more transparent,” says Baker Platt partner Stephen Platt.
Chris Bound managing partner of Guernsey-headquartered Collas Day says the list is a political vindication of the island’s tax status, adding: “We now have credibility.”
Jersey Finance chief executive Geoff Cook agrees, saying: “Jersey is well placed to continue to provide liquidity to the banking system, which is critical to aiding the recovery of the global economy.”
By contrast, the OECD list will come as a blow to the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Singapore, which were all listed as grey jurisdictions. That said, one offshore lawyer says: “It’s not really a surprise, they’re all still secrecy regions.”
Cayman-headquartered Maples & Calder chose to see the bright side of things and pointed out that the German government had recognised that the jurisdiction had made efforts to increase its transparency.
“We therefore look forward to the Cayman Islands being moved to the list of jurisdictions that have substantially implemented internationally agreed tax standards as soon as the OECD review is complete,” the firm said in a statement.
The G20 crackdown on offshore jurisdictions has prompted the offshore legal community to show off its credentials in transparency. The British Virgin Islands and Bermuda have signed a tax information sharing agreement (TIEA) with Britain while Lichtenstein is in the process of doing the same.
Hong Kong, China, Monaco and Singapore have agreed to sign up to OECD standards later this year.
Increased cooperation with international regulatory standards has helped to level the playing field between offshore jurisdictions meaning the Channel Islands and Isle of Man have a limited amount of time before other offshore regions catch up with them by co-operating with OECD standards. They will have to build on their competitive edge with speed.