2016 was the year when the world underwent profound political change. Most notably there were a series of political earthquakes in the US and Europe, with the election of Donald Trump and the decision of the UK to exit the European Union.
Going into 2017 these changes look likely to have a deep and lasting impact on tax policy and the distribution of wealth.
In less than a year data will start to flow under a new scheme for countries to share information automatically across borders, to help each other collect taxes from their taxpayers and fight financial crimes and abuses. The scheme is the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) which was set up by the OECD, a club dominated by rich countries. The scheme will start to deliver global automatic exchange of information from 2017.
In July we wrote a blog entitled Luxembourg backing down on supporting tax haven USA. Now it’s Switzerland’s turn.
This concerns the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS,) a global scheme to share banking information. The United States isn’t a participating jurisdiction: it has its own FATCA project, which as we’ve remarked before, is good at ferreting out US taxpayers overseas, but provides relative little information in the other direction to help other countries enforce their own tax laws. Making the United States a giant tax and secrecy haven.
Update: as it happens, The Economist has just published an excellent story about the Bahamas, subtitled The Bahamas Cocks a Snook at the War on Tax Dodgers. (Our only beef with that subtitle is that this is about so much more than just tax.)
We’ve periodically remarked on the Bahamas as a secrecy jurisdiction of great concern. Like Panama, it’s generally had a greater tolerance of dirty money than most modern offshore centres: more of a willingness to turn a blind eye and to overlook noncompliance by Bahamas-based actors of its own rules and laws.
The purpose of this blog is to flag up the Bahamas in a more pointed way: as a major wrecking-ball threatening global efforts to clamp down on cross-border financial secrecy.
The Bahamas has hosted an offshore centre for crime and tax evasion for decades, and it has historically had a higher tolerance for dirty money than most tax havens. Its secrecy score of 79 in our Financial Secrecy Index is one of the world’s highest. Treasure Islands summarises an important component of the Bahamas’ history and identity, via Chicago gangster Al Capone’s moneyman, Meyer Lansky: