The Bahamas has successfully concluded Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) negotiations with 23 countries, signed 10 agreements and will meet the G20/OECD’s March 2010 deadline of a minimum of 12 signed Agreements.
To date, The Bahamas has signed 10 TIEAs with the United States of America, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, China, France, New Zealand, Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands, Monaco and San Marino.
TIEA negotiations have been successfully concluded with Germany, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, and the seven Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland and Faroe Islands.
Signature on agreements by countries with whom The Bahamas has concluded negotiations will follow the completion of the relevant internal procedures required for the signing of treaty instruments. These internal procedures, which have been fast tracked by some countries, include the added requirement of translating the Agreement into relevant native languages, an important element of negotiations that is often a fundamental constitutional requirement for the validity of treaty instruments.
It is to be noted that The Bahamas is actively participating in the international dialogue concerning the regulation of international financial services. The active involvement and integration into the standard setting process has been particularly evident since 1995 with membership by Bahamian regulators in major organizations such as the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units and the OECD’s Global Forum. In September of this year, The Bahamas was elected to membership of the OECD Peer Review Group; a group comprising members of a re-vamped OECD Global Forum. The Peer Review Group is responsible for developing a programme of peer reviews to monitor progress of the implementation of the tax information exchange standards among the 90-plus members of the OECD Global Forum.
The Group also monitors this progress in identified international financial centres that are not currently members of the Global Forum.
The Government is committed to safeguarding this important segment of the Bahamian economy by ensuring that The Bahamas remains a well regulated jurisdiction which meets evolving standards for offering international financial services.
##Additional Background Information##
With the adoption of this Standard by the United Nations and G20, and the commitment by major centres engaged in international financial services to adopt the same in March 2009, Bahamas Prime Minister the Honorable Hubert Ingraham confirmed in March 2009 the willingness of The Bahamas to implement the Standard. In addition to his communiqué in March, the Government of The Bahamas announced the countries with whom it would seek agreements and the House of Assembly approved an amendment to the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act.
To view these documents and obtain additional information, please visit [www.bfsb-bahamas.com/international.php.](http://www.bfsb-bahamas.com/international.php)
When the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development launched an initiative in 1998 that sought to improve transparency and information exchange in tax matters, The Bahamas, as a sovereign nation, sought in 1999 and, again in 2002, to protect its economic interests and fiscal autonomy in all negotiations with the OECD. The Bahamas considered the establishment of a level playing field, where all OECD members and major finance centres agreed to implement the same standards, to be critical to its economic interests.
By mid-March 2009, a significant leveling of the playing field was achieved with the commitment by all OECD countries and major financial centres to the OECD standard for information exchange. The Bahamas Government, with the support of the private sector, agreed to begin to negotiate suitable arrangements that meet the OECD standard for information exchange on March 25th, 2009. (There are two mechanisms for agreeing to cooperate on tax matters: (1) the OECD approved Article 26 in Double Tax Treaties/Agreements or (2) Tax Information Exchange Agreements.)
On March 25, 2009 BFSB issued a statement which said:
*“BFSB believes the decision to endorse the OECD Standard reinforces The Bahamas’ unwavering commitment to be a trusted jurisdiction for clients and to be a responsible member of the international community.*
*“The Bahamas remains strongly committed to the principle that persons have a right to privacy with respect to the conduct of their affairs. This right, set out in the United Nations Charter Article 17, provides for the right of every person to be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference with his/her privacy, family, home or correspondence, as well as against unlawful attacks on his/her honour and reputation. The charter provides everyone with the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. The Bahamas supports this legitimate right to confidentiality through its common law, Data Protection (Privacy of Personal Information) Act, 2003 and various legislative provisions.*
*“Respect for the rule of law has always been fundamental to the success and strength of the financial services industry in The Bahamas. As such, clients can be assured that The Bahamas will only exchange information on agreed and transparent protocols. These protocols, as established under the tax information exchange agreement with the United States and recognized by the OECD, preserve the traditional confidentiality extended to those engaged in legitimate business. Legislative and administrative regimes in The Bahamas have, and will continue to have, respect for the privacy of our clients and will preserve banking confidentiality.”*
The Bahamas has demonstrated that as a sovereign nation it is an active contributor to the discussion on a range of global matters and that it is determined to act in a responsible manner. The Bahamas’ commitment to the transparency and information exchange standards of the OECD in 2002 was conditioned upon and subject to there being a level playing field. Since this time, The Bahamas has been an active participant in the Global Forum and its various sub-committees and is now prepared to negotiate and conclude suitable arrangements.
The insistence of the government on clarity and unequivocal language with respect to a level playing field, particularly as it relates to timelines and standards, was strongly supported by industry in 2002. Likewise the industry now supports the decision of the government, in conjunction with the governments of other major financial centres, to agree to endorse the OECD standards on transparency and effective exchange of information through defined and agreed protocols.
This decision will serve to reinforce the respect for personal privacy and the use of appropriate means for cooperation among countries. We believe this is in the best interest of clients and the international financial services industry of The Bahamas.
While the bi-lateral negotiation process is ongoing, it is our understanding that no information will be shared on an automatic or spontaneous basis. Further, the well-established confidentiality for those who live or conduct business in The Bahamas will continue. Most importantly, The Bahamas will retain a legislative and administrative system that respects both the privacy of its clients and preserves the banking confidentiality in its financial services sector.
In fact, this legislative framework continued following the Tax Information Exchange Agreement between The Bahamas and the United States of America. Under the terms of this agreement, tax information would only be exchanged pursuant to specific request for tax years beginning in or after 2004 for criminal tax offences, and in or after 2006 for civil tax defaults. Sufficient evidence must be provided to support the request for information, and information released will be subject to stipulated safeguards.