Leaders from seven of the UK Overseas Territories have met in Turks and Caicos Islands, to prepare for the annual meeting of with the FCO's minister for the overseas territories which will be held in London in October 2016.
During the meeting there were informal talks with the territory leaders about the significant changes which took place in the UK recently, the biggest of which being the vote in the referendum in favour of leaving the European Union, followed by the appointment of a new prime minister, Theresa May, which, in her turn, made some major minister changes.
On the first day of the meeting, a letter was delivered to TCI Premier Dr Rufus Ewing from the new minister for the overseas territories at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Baroness Anelay who is the minister of state for relations with a number of international organizations and additionally works with the overseas territories. She emphasized the commitment of the UK government to the overseas territories, as well as their involvement in the preparations for negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith said that the real issue for the BVI, as well as for the whole Caribbean and Latin American region, is the threat of international banks limiting or terminating their relationships with regional financial institutions. According to the premier, this matter is being discussed at the 'highest level of the Caribbean region', and representation has been made through all the banks - the banks' headquarters, correspondence banks, agencies, the United Kingdom and America.
The international banks' withdrawal due to unspecified concerns about money laundering is among the major issues being discussed at CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Georgetown, Guyana. The organization has already stated that the problem presents ‘a number of threats to the region’s financial and economic stability’.
Correspondent banking is crucially important to small developing economies; correspondent banks, which act as domestic banks' overseas agents, actually facilitate trade investments and remittances.
Friday, July 15, 2016
European finance ministers and experts expressed concern that Brexit could cause the UK to become another tax haven, the same as its Caribbean territories. By words of George Osborne, the country would cut its corporate tax rates to one of the lowest of any major economy, from 20 percent to less than 15 percent by 2020, trying to avoid the recession after Brexit and attract international investment.
Even before the referendum, UK was in the process of lowering corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 17 percent, to become more attractive destination for multinational corporations; after exit from the EU, the country will double its attempts to maintain London's status as premier financial centre.
The British overseas territories including the British Virgin Islands are often used to shield the assets and identities of their clients. However, the UK and its Caribbean territories adopted the OECD new Common Reporting Standard, which makes disclosure of tax residency information compulsory starting from 2016. This was connected very much with anti-tax avoidance initiatives caused by Panama Papers leak as an important source of information and moving force for these changes.
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
The BVI Financial Services Commission has published the forty-second volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing figures and information on financial services industry in the jurisdiction in Q1 2016. According to the statistics published by the Registry of Corporate Affairs, in the announced period there were 9,456 new companies incorporated, along with 27 Private Trust Companies and 20 Limited Partnerships. The number of company incorporations is higher than in the previous quarter (Q4 2015) but lower than in the first quarter of 2015. Cumulative number of companies incorporated as at 31 March 2016 was 466,081. At that moment, there were also 1,112 Private Trust Companies and 780 Limited Partnerships registered in the BVI.
In Investment Business, 5 new Investment Business Licences were granted in the first quarter of 2016, and cumulative number of Investment Business Licences achieved 467 as at 31 March 2016. Also, 8 Professional Mutual Fund and 4 Private Mutual Fund Licences were granted in the reported period. In the first quarter of 2016, there were 23 fully licences Insolvency Practitioners in the jurisdiction.
According to Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation statistics, there were 52 formal and 5 informal requests in the first quarter of the year, 47 Enforcement Matters and 21 Enforcement Investigations.
In 2016, seven Trade Marks Agents were registered in the British Virgin Islands, of them 3 Individual and 4 Partnership Agents. In the first quarter of 2016, 78 new Trade Marks applications were registered in the jurisdiction.
Monday, June 27, 2016
The British Virgin Islands has established an internet exchange point; BVI-IX is an investment that would help the jurisdiction to strengthen its telecommunications infrastructure and encourage the development of local digital content. Now, the so called 'phase two' was initiated by BVI officials, by words of chief technical officer of the BVI Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.
BVI is working with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, an inter-governmental telecommunications policy organisation, and US-based non-profit firm Packet Clearing House (PCH), to develop their IXP to the next level.
During the coming months, technical training and workshops will be organized on network security, local content and electronic commerce, to help the local market realise possible benefits.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
A research was commissioned by the BVI government with the purpose to examine contribution of the jurisdiction's financial services industry to the global economy. As part of the project, a research team from Capital Economics will visit the British Virgin Islands on 27-29 June to meet with representatives of the government, BVI FSC and the industry, and get preliminary results. The study will be funded both by the government and the private sector.
The main subject of the research will be financial, economic and legislative ties between the financial services industry in the BVI and the international community. It will show how BVI business structures have facilitated global commerce by connecting markets and launching global investment, trade and capital flow. Special focus will be made on BVI connections with the Chinese economy and its growth.
According to the executive director of BVI Finance Lorna Smith, “The Capital Economics study will provide valuable research, facts and figures to help promote the jurisdiction, assist potential clients in better understanding the benefits of doing business in the BVI and challenge ill-informed voices in the international community seeking to dispute the value that the BVI’s financial services brings to global business.”
Friday, June 10, 2016
The BVI government has enacted the Virgin Islands Deposit Insurance Act 2016 (VIDIC Act), providing some level of protection to depositors of financial institutions in the jurisdiction. The legal act was passed on April 25 and gazetted on May 19. By words of the BVI Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr Orlando Smith, the VIDIC Act will strengthen economic stability of the BVI financial system, and will contribute to increased consumer confidence.
The deposit insurance system has the purpose to protect depositors who are not in a position to assess the risks of the institution in which they choose to put their deposits. It will also automatically protect depositors' insured funds against major financial losses, in case the financial institution fails. The VIDIC Act provides for the establishment of the Virgin Islands Deposit Insurance Corporation, which will provide insurance against loss of deposits.
Monday, May 30, 2016
The Opposition Virgin Islands Party (VIP) had a meeting on May 25, with the main agenda item being the need to get new members and general election candidates. Among party members who participated in the discussion were Chairman Julian Frazer and Andrew Fahie. According to the media release of the opposition party, “The sole topic of discussion for the evening was centered on, ‘whether or not the leadership and members of the Virgin Islands Party are prepared to identify and make the decisions necessary to attract new members, attract new candidates, and be successful at the next or future general elections.”
The next meeting of the party will be held on July 20, 2016. Among other things to be discussed, there are the formation of a sub-committee to review the VIP Constitution, examining the revitalization of its Events and Fundraising Committee, and the establishment of a date for the election of party members to the Executive Committee.
Friday, May 13, 2016
In a media release published on May 9, 2016, BVI Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said to the people and businesses of the British Virgin Islands that they must not worry about the uncertainty regarding the financial services industry in the jurisdiction. The statement came just before the UK government’s major Anti-Corruption Summit particularly devoted to financial services.
The Premier and Minister of finance of the British Virgin Islands said: “... the midst of today’s uncertain environment, our financial services industry remains strong and our commitment to it is rock solid. We are one of the world’s leading financial centres and will continue to be so for the future… In partnership with industry, we remain focused on what matters most – creating value for all industry stakeholders including businesses, investors, service providers and the people of the BVI.”
At the same time, the leaked documents of the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca proved that the BVI was the single largest jurisdiction for company registrations and questionable operations of the law firm. The BVI government has said it was not aware of anything on the part of Mossack Fonseca, and ordered a “thorough investigation” on this case. About 60 per cent of BVI annual revenues come from financial services sector.
Friday, April 29, 2016
BVI has published the notes and technical protocols related to the exchange of information on beneficial ownership of companies agreed with the United Kingdom. According to this agreement, the countries agreed to share beneficial ownership information, and also committed to ensuring relevancy, accuracy and security of this information.
In the British Virgin Islands, this information is to be held through the electronic portal which will be accessed by BVI authorities only. On request, it will be shared with UK law enforcement agencies. The BVI law enforcement authorities will be able to request from UK law enforcement all of its non-public information on beneficial ownership.
By words of BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith, the agreement with UK will “further enhance the BVI regime which already surpasses that of many other jurisdictions in the world. It will also ensure that in order to protect our business and the interests of BVI, when it comes to transparency and information exchange, BVI’s rules and regulations are totally fit for purpose.”
Monday, April 18, 2016
On 11 April, British Prime Minister David Cameron made the statement in the House of Commons, having commended the BVI and other Overseas Crown Dependencies for enhancing co-operation with the United Kingdom, especially in the areas related to beneficial ownership and international exchange of tax information. The statement was welcomed by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith as reinforcing the BVI’s long-standing commitment to international standards on tax and transparency and to maintaining its robust regulatory regime.
A week earlier, the UK and the jurisdiction agreed to sign an exchange of notes on beneficial ownership between the countries, setting their mutual commitment to exchange beneficial ownership information between law enforcement agencies for the detection and prevention of criminal matters. This agreement may be considered as complementary to BVI’s good standing in meeting international commitments on tax, transparency and anti-corruption under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the United Nations (UN).
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
BVI authorities said that the leak of confidential data from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca specializing in offshore financial services, which included about 11 million documents, prompted them to look for any breaches of financial regulations in the Caribbean territory. BVI-registered companies play the most important role in the leaked records, the same way as BVI takes its prominent place in the global offshore financial industry.
BVI financial regulating services have issued a statement where they say that they will ‘pursue a thorough investigation through the BVI's competent authorities, and further action will be taken, where necessary’.
Last year, there were 9,388 company incorporations in the BVI, down from 11,436 the previous year. The BVI is said to have ‘rigorous’ regulatory oversight of its financial sector and adhere to international standards.
Thursday, April 07, 2016
The BVI Financial Account Reporting System will be ready to accept UK CDOT or UK FATCA filings by May 2, 2016. BVI Financial Institutions have been informed of this fact, and they can submit their reports to the International Tax Authority as of this date and no later than the extended dates which are as follows: the statutory deadline for registration with the Tax Authority is extended from April 1 to June 10, and the statutory deadline to submit 2014 and 2015 reportable accounts to the ITA is extended from May 31 to July 29.
The extended deadlines relate only to reportable accounts submitted via BVI Financial Account Reporting System. Concerning the Alternative Reporting Regime (ARR) under UK CDOT and UK FATCA, the original statutory deadline remains the same.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
BVI Territory's largest proposed budget debate is to start on March 22, more than month after being presented by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith, and after weeks of meeting where parliamentarians examined the budget for the 2016 fiscal year; also, Accounting officers participated in these meetings, discussing plans for the ministries and departments. The meetings have finished, and now both the government and opposition sides will take part in the budget debate, which will be followed by the approval of the proposed budget, possibly with changes.
In his budget speech, the premier announced new tax measures which will make people pay more for work permits and water supply, and, along with new legislation enforcing compliance, will enable the government to collect over US$20mln in revenues. He said, however, that these new tax measures ‘will not have any great effect on the citizens of the BVI’. The opposition responded to this statement, saying that the tax increases are being proposed at a time when more people have less.
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
On February 25-26, senior representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the National Crime Agency and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) visited the British Virgin Islands, being invited by premier and minister of finance Dr Orlando Smith to engage in further discussions on strengthening legal framework to fight cross-border financial crimes in the UK and BVI.
The UK delegation included director of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate, Dr Peter Hayes; FCO’s senior policy adviser, economic and financial services, Russell Phillips; and the NCA’s head of bribery, corruption and sanctions, Andy Lewis. The BVI delegation consisted of the premier and representatives from the ministry of finance, Attorney General’s Chambers, Financial Investigation Agency, Financial Services Commission and International Tax Authority.
Discussions focused on how law enforcement agencies can further build upon their relationship to provide an effective beneficial ownership regime. During the meeting, the UK delegation learned about the ongoing reform processes in the British Virgin Islands to strengthen the territory’s international cooperation. The strategies were discussed to engage in ongoing dialogue to build confidence and cooperation against cross border criminal activities.
Friday, February 12, 2016
British Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith presented BVI budget for the current fiscal year, of just over US$330 million. The budget of the previous year was US$311 million. The budget of fiscal year 2016 is one of the largest budgets presented by any of governments in the region, and the first since Smith’s party won in general elections held this year.
On February 8, BVI Premier presented his budget speech in the House of Assembly, where stated that projections for recurrent spending have been placed at $286,512,400, in addition to projected revenues of exactly $330,846,500.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
The British Virgin Islands is taking part in a regional study on diversification of the Caribbean countries, launched in November last year by the EU-funded Caribbean Overseas Small and Medium Enterprises Programme. The purpose of the study is to determine if the economies of the Caribbean Overseas Territories need diversification, and give recommendations how to do it.
BVI Premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, noted that the study is in line with BVI government’s economic strategy to diversify the long term sustainability of current and emerging sectors of the economy.
The main objective of Caribbean Overseas Small and Medium Enterprises i(COSME) s improving the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises in the British, Dutch and French OCTs by facilitating enhanced business enabling environment. Among the beneficiary countries there are BVI, Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
The BVI Financial Services Commission has issued press release where announced several additions to its management team and changes to Commission staff.
Stephen Grayson has been appointed the new Deputy Director, Legal, and will serve in this post for 3 years. Mr. Grayson will be focused on providing advice to the Commission on financial services legislation and related matters and providing leadership to and ensuring the overall development of the Commission’s in-house legal team. Before joining the BVI FSC team, he was Regulatory Lawyer/Investigator in the Financial Conduct Authority (UK).
Simon Gray has become Special Advisor responsible for Regulatory Training and Development. He is a financial services and risk management professional having previously worked as Director, Supervision and Head of Islamic Finance at the Dubai Financial Services Authority.
Ms. Simone Martin has been appointed the Acting Director of Insurance. Mr. Leon Wheatley will take the post of Asia Representative and move to the Hong Kong Office of the Commission at BVI House Asia. He will serve as Asia Representative until July 2017.
Other appointments include Ms. Yolanda McCoy as the Acting Deputy Director, Fiduciary Services, and Mr. Burton Chalwell as the Acting Deputy Director, Compliance Inspection.
Thursday, January 07, 2016
The so called Common Reporting Standards, developed by the OECD, came into effect from January 1, 2016 in many jurisdictions, including the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Guernsey, and Jersey, providing for the exchange information between tax authorities. According to the publication by Ropes & Gray, in the countries which accepted this standard from the beginning of the year and are part of the “Early Adopters Group”, all persons opening new accounts are required to provide “self-certifications” allowing financial institutions to perform due diligence and define their tax residency. The first exchange of information as regards certain account holders is expected to take place in 2017.
All investment funds in the BVI and other Early Adopter jurisdictions should have updated subscription procedures for new investors admitted on or after January 1, 2016, and should be ready to gather additional information from all existing investors.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
According to the statement issued by the BVI Government, its London Office Director and EU representative recently co-chaired an EU/OCT Financial Services Partnership Working Party meeting in Brussels, Belgium, having discussed the issue why earlier this year BVI was placed on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.
The Director of Policy, Research and Statistics at the BVI FSC Cherno Jallow and other OCT technical experts had the meeting on the issue with European Commission officials from the Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union, talking about the European Union position on blacklisting of Overseas Territories. By words of Jallow, the sides agreed that the inclusion of countries on the list had to be further considered in connection with co-operation between the EU and OCTs in the sphere of financial services.
Other issued discussed during the meeting were operation of the platform for tax good governance, re-launching of the common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB), Country-by-Country reporting and other EU initiatives.
The BVI FSC representative also had a meeting with the UK person on the European Parliament, Daniel Dalton, to brief him on the “high international standards met by the BVI on tax and transparency during the meeting”.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
BVI Finance (formerly known as the BVI International Finance Centre and rebranded in 2015) has hired a senior insurance consultant, who is a trained accountant experienced in the captive insurance sector, to assist the development of the captives industry in the British Virgin Islands and improve the Financial Services sector in the territory.
Malcolm Cutts-Watson will have the duty to navigate the emerging trends and developments in the global captive market, and advice as to how the jurisdiction could benefit from the opportunities and escape any threats. He will also assist in providing competitiveness of the BVI product offering in the global market. By words of Julien Johnson, the executive director of BVI Finance, the consultant’s responsibility will include review of the relevant legislation and proposal for amendments to the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2014/2015.
Cutts-Watson currently is a non-executive director of Cutts-Watson Consulting Limited; he has more than 30 years of experience in the sector having consulted clients in Europe and Asia. Also, he is an approved manager in a number of jurisdictions, among them the greater Caribbean, USA, Bermuda, Europe, and Africa.