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The economic climate is piling pressure on offshore lawyers in more ways than one.
While many are used to managing economic cycles and batting off criticism during the downturns, the issue of tax evasion is becoming a hot political potato.
The UK has launched a review of Crown Dependencies and in the US Barrack Obama has backed the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Bill.
For Charles Jennings, joint managing partner at Maples and Calder, the constant barraging of offshore lawyers is becoming more irritating than the recession.
“We have to refute the allegations made about us and to learn skills such as explaining to journalists, politicians and the public exactly what offshore institutional financial work is all about,” he states.
Several offshore jurisdictions have recently agreed to open their doors to onshore tax inspectors. These include Guernsey, the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man and Bermuda. Maples allowed the US Government Accountability Office into its Cayman Islands office last year.
It is, after all, the age of transparency.
It is in the interest of these firms to distance themselves from the ‘dirty money’ often associated with tax havens.
According to Maitland Advisory senior associate Clayton Bonnett new clients are most concerned about the reputational issues associated with going offshore.
“The mere fact that these questions are being asked means that, in order for an offshore financial centre to be taken seriously as a favourable investment jurisdiction, it will have to put in place adequate regulation while at the same time maintaining a modern and conducive pro-legitimate business attitude,” he says.
Channel Islands-based Baker Platt has published research evidencing how jurisdictions such as Jersey and Cayman are outperforming the US in terms of compliance with international regulations.
In most onshore countries regulation is being scrutinised closely. This will only intensify pressure on the offshore economies they are associated with.
There has never been a better time to demonstrate compliance with international financial regulations through transparency.