(CMC) – The Barbados government Wednesday said it has never had a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) as Bridgetown responded to a statement issued by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) linking several Caribbean countries to the initiative.
International Business and Industry Minister, Ronald Toppin said the Mia Mottley administration was aware of the statement issued on Tuesday relative to the abuse in some instances of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) where individuals can exploit citizenship by investment programmes.
“At the outset, it must be emphasized that Barbados has never had, and does not have, a citizenship by investment programme.
“However, among several other countries, Barbados High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) Special Entry Permit (SEP) regime was identified as one which poses a high-risk to the integrity of the CRS. This is not a “blacklist”, although some media establishments have chosen to headline their articles on the issue as such,” Toppin said.
He said that the government, which came to power in May this year “forcefully rejects any and all such news reports which state that Barbados has been blacklisted by the OECD.
“These reports are false and erroneous, but can, unfortunately, have deleterious effects on our reputation.
The OECD report simply provides practical guidance to financial institutions on how to undertake enhanced due diligence on clients that are citizens or residents of the countries with Citizenship By Investment (CBI) or Residence By Investment (RBI) programmes so as to prevent cases of Common Reporting Standard (CRS) avoidance and tax evasion,” Toppin noted.
He said that a Barbados delegation that is now attending the OECD Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP), Wednesday engaged the OECD officials that published the report.
“The Ministry was assured that the characterization of the list of jurisdictions as a “blacklist” is completely inaccurate. The Barbados delegation was also informed that a statement of clarification will be forthcoming from the OECD very shortly.
“Barbados is, therefore, under no obligation to take any measures to change its High Net Worth Individual Special Entry Permit regime,” Toppin said, adding that Barbados is a member of the OECD’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information and has ratified the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.
“Barbados has also implemented the CRS and is compliant with the international standard for the exchange of information established by the Global Forum,” he added.
Several Caribbean countries, notably Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts-Nevis have CIP programmes that allow foreign investors to receive citizenship of the country in return for making a substantial investment in the socio-economic development of the country.
The OECD said Tuesday that the Residence and citizenship by investment (CBI/RBI) schemes, often referred to as golden passports or visas, “can create the potential for misuse as tools to hide assets held abroad from reporting under the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS).
“In particular, Identity Cards, residence permits and other documentation obtained through CBI/RBI schemes can potentially be abused to misrepresent an individual’s jurisdiction(s) of tax residence and to endanger the proper operation of the CRS due diligence procedures,” it said.
The OECD said therefore and as part of its work to preserve the integrity of the CRS, it is publishing the results of its analysis of over 100 CBI/RBI schemes offered by CRS-committed jurisdictions, identifying those schemes that potentially pose a high-risk to the integrity of CRS.
It said that potentially high-risk CBI/RBI schemes are those that give access to a low personal tax rate on income from foreign financial assets and do not require an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the jurisdiction offering the scheme.
“Such schemes are currently operated by Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Colombia, Cyprus, Dominica, Grenada, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montserrat, Panama, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos Islands, United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu,” the OECD statement noted.
In his statement, Toppin said that the island had received positive reviews at the Forum and that the delegation had reported the positive outcomes under Action 5 of the Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS).
The OECD has identified 15 actions to address BEPS in a comprehensive manner and the Action 5 Report is one of the four BEPS minimum standards.
Toppin said that the director of International Business had updated the Forum on Barbados’ direction with respect to proposed amendments to its legislative regime.
He said the FHTP Secretariat accepted the proposals by the Barbados team and urged Barbados to finalize the amendments. Barbados will report again in January 2019.
“These positive outcomes are in line with Barbados’ expectations and our engagement with the FHTP is testimony to Government’s continuing commitment to the adherence of international standards and tax rules that promote transparency and fairness in global trade and commerce for individuals and businesses alike.”