Isle of Man ‘unaffected’ by business pact

Chief minister rejects island’s portrayal as ‘corrupt tax haven’

Isle of Man first minister Alan Bell

Isle of Man first minister Alan Bell

Mon, Jun 17, 2013, 01:02

An agreement that will give developing countries greater rights to demand information about companies registered in British-controlled offshore financial services centres will make “no difference” to the Isle of Man, the island’s chief minister has said.

Along with the other crown dependencies Jersey and Guernsey, and the UK’s overseas territories such as Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man signed up to the pact at Downing Street on Saturday after opposition from Bermuda was overcome.

Downplaying the impact on the island, its chief minister Alan Bell told The Irish Times shortly after a conference in Lancaster House on tax evasion and transparency: “We are well ahead of most jurisdictions and indeed most developed countries in terms of our ability and willingness to exchange information. We have signed up to automatic exchange of information with the US, with the UK.”

The Isle of Man has kept a central register of the beneficial ownership of companies registered on the island, available to police forces and tax authorities, though it is not in the public view.

Defending the island’s reputation, Mr Bell said: “If people stopped to look at the progress, particularly the progress the Isle of Man has made over 15 years, it is a very different entity to this corrupt tax haven which gets portrayed sometimes.”

Asked about the island’s past reputation, Mr Bell said: “The business that some people are concerned about, if it was on the Isle of Man, left the island some 10 to 15 years ago. If there was bad business it was driven out a long, long time ago.”

Saying he applauded British prime minister David Cameron’s efforts on transparency, Mr Bell said global action was necessary.

“Unless there is an agreement for a large number of countries, you will tighten up in one country and the sort of money being tracked will move to another.

“It is going to be a long-term exercise. There is no quick-fix solution. The sort of money that causes concern will simply find a new home somewhere else.”

US problems
The United States, he predicted, would have serious problems signing up to a transparency agreement, since US president Barack Obama could not order states such as Delaware to change their rules on company registration.

Nothing in Saturday’s agreement affects people from the Republic with interests in the Isle of Man, since bank deposit interest figures have been notified to the Revenue for the last five years.