Traditionally, as a low-tax jurisdiction, Barbados has never acknowledged itself to be part of the "uncooperative tax havens", as listed by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development over the past 10 years in its primary and revised lists. For, despite random listing and delisting, the jurisdiction has always been one of transparency and generally low taxation within its international business sector. It has relied on a policy of propelling growth through the rapid extension of its double tax treaty network. Indeed, the presence of such a network has allowed for international tax structuring, with results, in some cases, of tax deferral and low tax payments; but it has clearly discouraged tax evasion. Furthermore, its treaties contain the standard exchange of information provisions; and while such exchanges may never be fishing expeditions, as long-established in law, they do provide for the routine exchanges. Moreover, from as early as 1986, the jurisdiction had additionally signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the USA as part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative.
Since 1998, the international financial services landscape has been painted with a plethora of reports and recommendations from international and regional groups which seek to ensure global transparency. The international regulatory ethos has, however, undergone steady changes, and particularly since the 2008 financial crisis and accompanying recession. This new age of disclosure and transparency has been significantly fuelled at the national level by the recent policies instituted by the USA and spurred on by its protocols: the 2011 Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI), and the 2009, 2013, 2014 Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Programmes (OVDPs), they are mirrored by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which institutionally buttresses the OVDI and OVDP protocols. These three protocols have coalesced in such a manner as to encourage similar legislation in virtually all jurisdictions which have a trade, economic or political relationship with the USA. In essence, the global exchange of information has taken on a different legal and practical character from the protocols hitherto accepted in international tax practice.
Within this current milieu, the Barbados response must yet again be one of reviewing its own internal processes, bearing in mind that investors will continue to look at substance and not form. Furthermore, the dynamic nature of the new transparency, globalisation, free trade agreements, the fast-moving information industry and all of the other global developments, require Barbados to retool its ongoing international strategies. In this regard, the recent efforts to be host to a regional centre for dispute resolution, is an important strategic objective in a growing services area. Barbados must also rethink its role as a potential regional centre for philanthropy and continue on an ongoing basis to buttress and improve its own non-profit and charity legislation.
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