Government prepared to amend laws to prevent tax evasion
The Antigua and Barbuda government is willing to amend the necessary laws to ensure that local financial institutions are able to share banking information of dual citizenship holders with the relevant authorities in their original country of birth, if this becomes necessary.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne made the disclosure following the recent listing by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of Antigua and Barbuda among 21 countries whose Citizenship by Investment Programmes (CIP) are identified as ways in which many are evading their tax obligations.
The OECD said, “while residence and citizenship by investment schemes allow individuals to obtain
citizenship or residence rights through local investments or against a flat fee for perfectly legitimate reasons, they can also be potentially misused to hide their assets offshore by escaping reporting under the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS). “
It also stated that “in particular, Identity Cards and other documentation obtained through residency schemes can potentially be misused, or abused to misrepresent an individual’s jurisdiction(s) of tax residence and to endanger the proper operation of due diligence procedures”.
The report outlined that potentially high-risk residency schemes are those that give access to a low personal income tax rate on offshore financial assets and do not require an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the location offering the scheme.
In responding to the report posted on the OECD’s website, Prime Minister Browne stated that the concerns are legitimate and the government is committed to ensuring that the country is in compliance.
“Even without any formal request from the OECD to make the amendment, we will on our own volition, at the next sitting of Parliament, amend the relevant laws that will force these individuals to report all their banking dealings under the current reporting standards,” Browne said.
He added, “Several months ago, we passed the Beneficial Ownership Law in which the beneficial owners of all companies must be disclosed, because one of the things these individuals did in the past, they were able to use directors and shareholders to literally hide the assets here and in other jurisdictions.”
According to him, at this point, it is the country’s best interest to cooperate as far as possible and make the amends to “keep out of the crosshairs of the OECD, European Union and others”.
He also stated that at the end of the day Antigua and Barbuda will also be the head of a list, noting that whenever these international agencies are listing country’s they do so in an alphabetical order.
Several other Caribbean states, namely St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Dominica, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Island, are also included in the OECD’s list.
The OECD said financial institutions are required to take the outcome of its analysis of high-risk CIP schemes into account.