Cameron strikes tax deal despite policy doubts

Michael Bow
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PRIME minister David Cameron has hailed a deal with 10 overseas UK territories to shoot down tax evasion, despite concerns it will fall short on boosting transparency.

The Prime Minister inked a deal over the weekend with 10 UK Crown dependencies and overseas territories, corralling them into a global tax information sharing programme ahead of the start of today’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

The international programme, known as the multilateral convention on mutual assistance in tax matters, had previously been agreed by more than 50 countries and helps participants share tax data more easily.

The 10 – Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Anguilla, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – also said they planned to draw up a register of beneficial ownership, designed to unmask the real owners of offshore holding vehicles.

It follows plans announced yesterday from the Treasury to introduce new rules requiring UK companies to hold information on ownership and report this to a central database at Companies House. “It is important we are getting our house in order,” Cameron said.

Critics said the move would flounder in its boost to crack down on tax evasion despite the agreement.

Richards Hay, who is counsel to the International Financial Centres Forum, said plans to reveal beneficial ownership risked scoring an “own goal” for the UK, as countries such as the US do not collect such data.

■ Anguilla: Overseas territory in the Caribbean. Population: 15,094

■ Bermuda: Overseas territory in the North Atlantic. Population: 64,700

■ British Virgin Islands: Overseas territory in the Caribbean. Population: 23, 552

■ Cayman Islands: Overseas territory in the Caribbean. Population: 56,729

■ Gibraltar: Overseas territory in the Mediterranean. Population: 29,224

■ Guernsey: Crown dependency in the English Channel. Population: 65,573

■ Isle of Man: Crown dependency in the Irish Sea. Population: 83,327.

■ Jersey: Crown dependency off Normandy. Population: 97, 857

■ Montserrat: Overseas territory in the Caribbean. Population: 5,900 (2008)

■ Turks and Caicos Islands: Overseas territory located off the Lucayan Archipelago. Population: 39,184