Tax and finance were at the top of the agenda of the joint ministerial council meeting between the leaders of the British government and the nation’s 14 overseas territories.
The conference ended with a pledge to more transparency in banking and financial services to try to shed the image of the territories acting as tax shelters for the wealthy and big corporations.
Each territory has agreed to work harder to establish clearer financial regulation to rid the reputation that they are tax havens.
Several, including the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans and Gibraltar earn a significant income from the financial sector.
In recent months, all have agreed to sign up to the automatic exchange of tax information with Britain – while some have already indicated or joined the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) network as well.
Mark Simmonds, the British Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories summed up the meeting by issuing an official communique.
“Each of us wants to restate our commitment to taking part in a fair, responsible and effectively regulated global business environment,” he said on behalf of the other leaders.
“Tackling tax evasion and fraud is a global responsibility in which the UK and the territories will continue to play a full part.”
Each territory has a strategy in place to disclose information about company ownership to remove the blurring of who is responsible for corporate tax by removing the veil of secrecy imposed by shadow directorships.
Talks on the best way to create a central company registry detailing the ownership of all companies spread across the territories.
Where are the territories?
Many of them are isolated islands and regions around the world – the 14 territories are:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia on Cyprus
- Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean
- The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Saint Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic
- The Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Antarctic Territory
Most date back to the days of the British Empire, when they were important naval bases on trade routes around the world.
Simmonds said: “Everyone felt that matters between each territory and Britain are progressing and that the territories are vibrant and flourishing communities.
“We will work hard to support their economies and the prospect of more jobs, while at the same time demonstrating to the rest of the world that these are good places for business and not shadowy hideaways for tax evaders.