UK Politics

Bermuda responds to Ed Miliband plan on tax avoidance

Bermuda golf course view Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bermuda has one of the world's most prosperous economies thanks to the flourishing offshore finance industry

Bermuda has said it is "surprised and disappointed" to be included on a list of places Ed Miliband says Labour would target in a tax avoidance clampdown.

Mr Miliband wants British territories such as Bermuda to be internationally blacklisted if they do not compile public registers of offshore firms.

Bermuda's government said it had operated a central registry of companies since the 1940s.

Gibraltar says Labour was being "unfair" as it was subject to EU rules.

Mr Miliband has sent a letter to the leaders of the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat. He also contacted the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

He said that - under a Labour government - they would have six months to compile a register or face being put on an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development list of "tax havens" list, incurring sanctions.

'Fraud fight'

Bermuda premier Michael Dunkley said it remained open to dialogue with the UK.

A statement from Bermuda's government said it had noted Mr Miliband's comments, but insisted it was an international leader in the registration of companies.

Mr Dunkley said: "The government of Bermuda remains open to continuing dialogue with the UK government, the UK opposition, and all other interested parties, in sharing best practice across borders in areas of corporate transparency, and the fight against fraud and crime.

"We would also remind Mr Miliband of Bermuda's strategic economic contribution to the UK, which includes direct and indirect employment in the UK of 100,000 people, as well as our role as a global hub for the reinsurance and insurance industries, providing the critical underwriting required for damage arising from natural disasters and terrorist events."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bermuda's Premier Michael Dunkley said the territory was important to the UK's economy

Speaking on Sky News's Murnaghan programme, Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo, said: "The standards that apply in respect of financial services and their provision from Gibraltar are exactly the same standards that apply in respect of London, in respect of Frankfurt and the rest of the EU.

"Therefore it is quite unfair to characterise Gibraltar as a tax haven."

The leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party added that ministers were adopting an anti-money laundering directive in September and it was "very unlikely" Gibraltar would find itself on the kind of list proposed by Labour.

Labour argues overseas territories and crown dependencies could help to stop or stem tax avoidance by showing tax authorities who is diverting money into companies there.

Chancellor George Osborne dismissed the Labour leader's plans saying he was "unfit to be prime minister" because he did not understand the current system.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show Mr Osborne said: "If you actually look at what he's saying, he wants to blacklist every country of the OECD that doesn't have these central registers.

"Britain is leading by example, it is having new central registers, it is insisting that its overseas territories transparently share information with us.

"But the Labour leader is simply not fit for office because he does not think through the consequences of his anti-business, anti-enterprise and anti-our partners abroad policies."

At the G8 summit in June 2013 the prime minster announced plans to tackle tax avoidance and has encouraged the UK's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to implement their own public central register.

So far none of the islands and outposts have followed the UK's lead, saying they will not make the change until there is international action.

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