By Richard Johnstone | 2 May 2013
Five British overseas territories have today agreed to help the Treasury tackle tax evasion by sharing information on bank accounts held in their jurisdictions.
Chancellor George Osborne announced that Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks & Caicos Islands had signed up to this ‘step change’ in international transparency. This follows a decision by the Cayman Islands last month to share information.
Under the agreements, each territory will automatically exchange information both bilaterally with the UK, and multilaterally with the four other European countries taking part, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Each country will now receive much greater levels of information about bank accounts held by their taxpayers in each jurisdiction. This will include names, addresses, dates of birth, account numbers, balances and details of payments made into those accounts. The aim is to make it harder for people to escape paying taxes by hiding money overseas.
Information on accounts held by certain legal entities, such as trusts, will also be shared, and each territory has pledged to ensure they are at the forefront of transparency on company ownership.
Both the Isle of Man and Guernsey are considering joining the initiative, and Osborne encouraged more territories to sign up. ‘This represents a significant step forward in tackling illicit finance and sets the global standard in the fight against tax evasion,’ he said.
‘I now hope others follow these governments’ lead and enter into similar commitments to this new level of transparency, removing the hiding places for those who seek to evade tax and hide their assets.’
The agreement comes after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to make tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a priority at the Group of Eight summit of leading nations, being held in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland next month.