That was the message from Donal Blaney, Director & Principal at Griffin Law, in West Malling, Kent during two important conferences held in the Caribbean in November 2019. Donal spoke at the Sterling Group compliance conference in the BVI and the Caribbean Regional Compliance Association conference in St. Lucia.
He described to highly motivated audiences that the UK Government has been focussed over the past few years on producing legislation designed to promote transparency and thwart tax evasion by entities located offshore. He commented that the UK’s tax collection agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, has pursued companies so enthusiastically it has raised an additional £160 billion in taxes since 2010 as a result of these legislative changes.
Unfortunately for tax practitioners operating both in and outside the UK, this flurry of legislation has often muddied the waters regarding the previously clearer distinction between evasion (illegal) and avoidance (not illegal).
Internationally, the UK government spearheads efforts to improve tax transparency (which has led to beneficial ownership registers and the Common Reporting Standard) and has published its intention of eliminating the use of offshore structures in its “No Safe Havens” strategy, published earlier this year. Falling foul of any compliance rules now covered by new legislation can result in costly – and criminal – disputes with the Inland Revenue.
There is even a new corporate criminal offence of “failure to prevent the facilitation of domestic or overseas tax evasion” which is discouraging some professionals from working with British clients, even if their intentions are wholly legitimate.
Donal Blaney said, “EU and UK companies working with offshore providers of corporate, family and trust advice must ensure they are thoroughly conversant with the new legislation to avoid criminal prosecution. We strongly advise them to work with experienced experts such as us to attain full compliance during this “settling in” period. We anticipate a number of situations where challenges will be made and our resolution expertise will be required by entities experiencing a ‘misunderstanding’ with the Inland Revenue over the recent rule changes. ”
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Sterling Griffin is a BVI law firm regulated by the BVI General Legal Council, co-owned by Donal Blaney and Sherri-Ortiz-Fahie.