Battle lines drawn on Panama Papers Day 2

As the dust began to settle around the world on Tuesday – following the globally-reported news of a leak of more than 11 million confidential and reportedly revealing documents from a Panamanian law firm, politicians  – business leaders and tax industry experts lined up on both sides of a debate about the extent of tax evasion taking place today.

In the UK, politicians were interviewed on television and in newspapers calling on the government to do more to crack down on tax evasion, recalling similar comments that came in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and peaked around the time of a G20 summit held in London in April 2009.

Similar comments were being made in other countries around the world, according to media reports and comments from industry sources, including in Australia, where the Australian Tax Office was said to be investigating the cases of more than 800 Australian residents and taxpayers who reportedly had been identified as high net wealth clients of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm from which the data had been leaked.

‘Times have changed’

On what seemed to be emerging as an opposing front, spokespeople for businesses and industries, including some in places often referred to by the media as “tax havens”, called attention to the reported fact that many of the Panamanian documents were old, and that things have changed significantly in the last few years with respect to the ability of wealthy individuals to hide money and assets overseas.

Speaking on behalf of Guernsey’s financial services industry, Guernsey Finance chairman Lyndon Trott said in a statement that Guernsey “would welcome moves to improve transparency across the global financial services industry”.

Much of the recent media coverage over the last 48 hours, Trott, pictured, went on, “illustrated the fact that plenty of misunderstandings remain surrounding the standards that places such as Guernsey already work to”.

“Guernsey became one of the first jurisdictions to regulate trust and company service providers, and this is something which still does not happen in many territories around the world today, including the UK,” Trott added, in a statement which may be read on Guernsey Finance’s website.

“In addition, Guernsey has had legislation in place since 2000 that obliges all beneficial owners of Guernsey companies and other legal persons to be properly identified and recorded by regulated corporate service providers, and is one of only a handful of jurisdictions that have such measures in place.

“We do not disclose this information publicly because we value client confidentiality, but this information can be accessed in a timely manner by the appropriate regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies when requested.

“We therefore fully support international initiatives on beneficial ownership as in many ways we are already ahead of the curve and would welcome other jurisdictions enhancing their own regimes. A level playing field is good for business and competition.”

Trott also cited a May 2015 KPMG report that he said showed how Guernsey actually facilitated inward investment into the UK and Europe, rather than keeping money out of such places.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
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