Monday, October 18, 2010

Gibraltar: Leopards. Spots.

The Financial Times reports that Gibraltar is trumpeting its transition from a tax haven to a mainstream European financial services centre.

Frankly, we are sceptical. Gibraltar's claims are largely based on their having signed up to 18 tax information exchange agreements based on the weak and ineffective OECD model. In addition, with effect from January 2011, the notorious tax exempt company status given to companies booking profits from trading activities conducted anywhere in the world apart from on the Rock, are also abolished, replaced with an across the board 10 per cent tax rate on all companies. This brings Gibraltar into line with the requirements of the European Union Code on Conduct Group on Business Taxation.

However, as the FT points out, Gibraltar still falls far short of what TJN would regard as acceptable transparency standards. The 2009 Financial Secrecy Index results show that Gibraltar had an opacity score of 92 out of a maximum possible score of 100. As our summary assessment shows, Gibraltar fails on every indicator with the exception of banking secrecy.

Like most tax havens, Gibraltar is mounting a charm offensive to convince the rest of the world that the leopard has changed its spots. In October 2011 we will be publishing updated opacity scores for Gibraltar and all other secrecy jurisdictions covered by our index. By then we hope to have data on whether the hundreds of new tax information agreements signed since April 2009 have actually yielded a significant increase in data exchange. Judging from our recent discussions with Ministry of Finance officials in Scandinavia, the results to date have been paltry.


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