Jersey agrees to pass tax evasion data to UK

Jersey agrees to pass tax evasion data to UK

* David Leigh
* The Guardian, Tuesday 10 March 2009

Terry Le Sueur, chief minister of the Channel islands tax haven of Jersey, is due in London today to sign a novel agreement which will share information about offshore tax dodging.

Treasury sources said yesterday the deal with Jersey had been "a long time coming", but was a result of the changed international climate.

Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have promised to crack down on tax havens, many of which are British or ex-British territories. The OECD is also working on a fresh blacklist of uncooperative countries, and next month’s G20 meeting in London is expected to see strenuous efforts to pillory the alleged worst culprits, such as Switzerland.

Jersey will hope to avoid sharing that fate. The UK has been trying to persuade it to sign a deal for more than four years. Stephen Timms, the Treasury minister, who has negotiated the tax information exchange agreement (TIEA), has benefited from the international hostility to tax havens following the global financial crash. In the boom years, many banks, hedge funds and wealthy individuals avoided tax bills by using havens and offshore banks to accumulate assets.

Jersey has signed two other such agreements with the US and the Netherlands. In 2007, members of the island’s regime complained publicly they might lose business as a result, particularly to Switzerland, where tax evasion by foreigners has not been regarded as a crime.

Following the G20 preparatory summit in Berlin last week, officials are drawing up a list of uncooperative havens. Other centres of secretive offshore activity, including Liechtenstein and Panama, are among more than 30 countries that have failed to sign agreements to hand over information.

Earlier lists which were prepared by the OECD merely "named and shamed". Now the G20 plans to promote a series of sanctions designed to deprive them of billions of dollars of business.

Sanctions discussed include refusing to allow payments to a blacklisted haven to be deducted from taxable income. This would hit big corporations and banks who channel millions of pounds out of the taxman’s reach by paying royalties, management fees, dividends and insurance premiums to their own offshore subsidiaries. Officials are working on a plan for international financial institutions to pull their investments out of the blacklisted havens.

The G20 is believed to be drawing up its list from three overlapping groups of havens : those that have no double taxation conventions, which allow countries to swap information on taxpayers ; those that have refused to accept the idea of new tax TIEAs ; and those which agreed in principle to TIEAs but have failed to sign them. Campaigners from the Tax Justice Network estimate that some $255bn (£185bn) a year of revenues are lost globally due to tax havens.

Voir en ligne : The Guardian

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