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Cameron hails ‘tax havens’ agreement “step forward”

A “VERY POSITIVE STEP FORWARD” has been made in tackling tax evasion and avoidance, the prime minister has claimed, after the UK’s overseas territories and Crown dependencies agreed to a clampdown.

Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man all had representatives present at Downing Street on Saturday and agreed to sign up to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, led by the OECD.

Additionally, they agreed to draw up plans on the beneficial ownership of companies, detailing businesses’ true owners, the BBC reports.

However, concerns have been raised that the UK business community has not been consulted, and could still reject the measures if they were to end up paying more corporation tax than they do currently. The Crown dependencies, too, warned that a register of true owners may not work as it does not include trusts.

The register – to be held by Companies House – will initially only be accessible to government authorities such as HM Revenue & Customs, although a consultation could be held in the future over making the information public.

In May, it was announced all the UK’s overseas territories are now signed up to automatic information-sharing deals, with a pilot currently underway. The deal sees the UK, along with other countries involved in the pilot, automatically provided with much greater levels of information about bank accounts held by their taxpayers in those jurisdictions, including names, addresses, dates of birth, account numbers, account balances and details of payments made into those accounts.

The new agreement, however, would go further and bring them in line with OECD standards.

Following the meeting, Jersey chief minister Ian Gorst insisted his is an “open and transparent jurisdiction”.

“We’re already meeting current international standards. We’ve got over 40 tax information exchange agreements, we don’t have banking secrecy law, and we’ve said again today to the prime minister that actually we’d like to have the OECD convention extended to us.”

In a joint statement, the leaders of the territories and dependencies said: “We are committed to continuing to play a leading role in delivering a responsible and effectively regulated global business environment and in tackling the global problem of tax evasion.”

G8 leaders are set to commence their summit in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, where David Cameron is expected to ensure tax avoidance and evasion are high up the agenda.

He said: “It is important we are getting our house in order. What the Crown dependencies… have signed up to is basically the existing and the new standards for exchanging tax information. That is absolutely vital.

“It is a very positive step forward and it means that Britain’s voice in the G8, and campaigning on this issue around the world for proper taxes, proper companies, proper laws… will be stronger.”

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