Barbados is prepared to challenge a recent decision by members of the European Union (EU) to blacklist the country for being a non-cooperative tax jurisdiction.
This assertion was made recently by Minister of International Business, Donville Inniss, during a press conference at his Baobab Tower, Warrens office.
“This issue is very critical to us because it hits at the heart of Barbados” reputation as a domicile for legitimate and serious international business and financial services.
“And, at the end of the day, we hold nothing more dear to us as an economy and society than our reputation. And, any attacks on our reputation must be responded to and dealt with in a very forceful manner…
“This international business and financial services sector is extremely critical to this economy and society…the last indicators are that we currently contribute $900 million to the Barbados economy, making us second to Tourism in terms of GDP contribution…,” Mr. Inniss stated.
The Minister drew reference to correspondence from Head of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, Monica Bhatia, who also denounced the listing in a document that was circulated to the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) and key stakeholders, stating that the EU was wrong in its evaluation of Barbados and the other jurisdictions listed.
“As the OECD and the Global Forum, we would like to confirm that the only agreeable assessment of countries as regards their cooperation is made by the Global Forum, and that a number of countries identified in the EU exercise are either fully or largely compliant and have committed to the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), sometimes even as early adopters.
“Without prejudice to countries sovereign positions, we are happy to confirm that these jurisdictions are cooperative and we would like to commend the tremendous progress made over the past years, as well as the cooperation and integrity of the Global Forum process,” the correspondence stated.
Mr. Inniss underscored that “Barbados was on solid ground”, and had the approval of the said Global Forum, “the agency that mattered most”. He pointed out that the Barbados Revenue Authority, which he described as “the only competent authority in Barbados for collecting tax information and sharing it with third party countries”, had not received “nor does it have at this point in time any outstanding requests for information from any of those countries that have blacklisted Barbados”.
“I therefore question how Barbados could have arrived on any such list since we have no evidence that Barbados has been uncooperative,” the Minister maintained. Joined by President of the Barbados International Business Association, Connie Smith; and Executive Director of the Caribbean Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Mr. Inniss said he had spoken with Head of the European Delegation for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mikael Barfod, informing him that the list was unfair, had damaging implications for this country’s reputation.
“I have already had a conversation with the EU Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mikael Barfod, and the EU Commissioner’s Office would have issued a press release on this matter yesterday which I had sight of. “ . . . But notwithstanding that, I had a conversation with the Ambassador to which I made it abundantly clear the position that Barbados has taken, how unfair that we think that this release has been, how much damage it can cause to us, and we are not prepared to roll over and play dead on this,” he outlined.
The Minister also indicated that Government would hold bilateral discussions with those countries which placed Barbados on the list to ensure they were aware of the consequences of their actions and, more importantly, to endeavour to have this island removed from it.
“We are satisfied that they need to understand that it is obviously an error in placing Barbados on a particular list like this. We certainly are committed to increasing our surveillance and research capabilities in the Ministry and the Government on the whole on these matters, to ensure that we are able to pick them up a lot earlier and to avoid these instances occurring,” he asserted.