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Bahamas denies country blacklisted by OECD over golden passports

Friday, October 19, 2018

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NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — The Bahamas government says it “strongly refutes” media reports that the country has been blacklisted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“This report is false and misleading,” the Ministry of Finance said, noting that the OECD Tuesday published a report that includes a list of jurisdictions around the world, including The Bahamas, which operate Citizenship by Investment (CBI) or Residence by Investment (RBI) programmes.

The government insists that “this report is not a blacklist” and added that representatives of the Ministry of Finance, who are currently attending meetings in Paris, met with the head of the OECD International Cooperation and Tax Administration Division, which published the report.

“The ministry was assured that the characterisation of the list as a blacklist is completely inaccurate. The Bahamas is under no obligation to take any measures to change its investment schemes.”

The statement noted that in The Bahamas, Economic Permanent Residency gives the individual the right to reside permanently in The Bahamas and travel freely to and from the country unless status is revoked. It said that the programme does not confer citizenship or the right to be gainfully employed in the country and that it also does not confer tax residency and the individual must still comply with the tax laws of their country of origin.

“The second home market in The Bahamas is a valuable source of investment in the country and promotes economic and cultural diversity. The Bahamas continues to welcome global citizens to our majestic shores to experience the stunning beauty of the islands and the rich culture of our people.

“This includes opportunities for second homeowners to invest in The Bahamas and to enjoy the quality of life that our islands afford,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.

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.

“Together with the results of the analysis, the OECD is also publishing practical guidance that will enable financial institutions to identify and prevent cases of CRS avoidance through the use of such schemes,” the OECD said, noting “in particular, where there are doubts regarding the tax residence(s) of a CBI/RBI user, the OECD has recommended further questions that a financial institution may raise with the account holder”.

The OECD said that moreover, a number of jurisdictions have committed to spontaneously exchanging information regarding users of CBI/RBI schemes with all original jurisdiction(s) of tax residence, which reduces the attractiveness of CBI/RBI schemes as a vehicle for CRS avoidance.

“Going forward, the OECD will work with CRS-committed jurisdictions, as well as financial institutions, to ensure that the guidance and other OECD measures remain effective in ensuring that foreign income is reported to the actual jurisdiction of residence.”

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