Minister: ‘Oxfam Has Made Substantial Errors’

December 12, 2016

Following the release of Oxfam’s report which names Bermuda as one of the world’s “worst corporate tax havens,” Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance Bob Richards said the Government “notes with surprise and disappointment statements by Oxfam concerning tax and transparency in which Bermuda has been wrongly included,” and added that “Oxfam has made substantial errors in its claims.”

Bermuda Crest TC December 12 2016

Minister Richards said, “The Government of Bermuda notes with surprise and disappointment statements by Oxfam concerning tax and transparency in which Bermuda has been wrongly included.

“Oxfam has made substantial errors in its claims, as far at least as they intend to encompass Bermuda. Specifically it refers to:

  • a] A ranking of jurisdictions based wholly on volume of assets, not on any recognised criteria of transparency or compliance, on which measures Bermuda always scores very well. It should be emphasised too that the right to set a corporate tax rate is recognised by the UN as a sovereign right and is considered by Bermuda to be an essential contributor to its world-leading reinsurance centre, along with political stability, regulatory excellence and geographic independence.
  • b] ‘Anonymous shell corporations’; these simply do not exist on the island, nor elsewhere in relation to corporations registered in Bermuda where continually updated beneficial ownership information is fully available to relevant international authorities on request, which is a leading position on disclosure by all international standards. In fact, Bermuda’s register has been in existence for 70 years.
  • c] ‘Failure to cooperate with international process to combat tax avoidance…and transparency’; Bermuda is fully committed to all of the relevant OECD and other global initiatives, including on BEPs [Base Erosion and Profit Shifting], and scores extremely well on all internationally recognised tables. Until recently, it was the only Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency to have signed up to the country-by-country reporting standards. The island is barely mentioned in the Panama papers for instance, and ranks better than the UK and the US in the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index.

“More generally, Oxfam, directly and indirectly, appears simply to have ignored Bermuda’s internationally recognised role as a centre of corporate and tax transparency and compliance, a key ally in the fight against money-laundering and all criminal activities, and a committed partner in the initiatives of the OECD on tax reform under the BEPs initiative.

“We have benefitted in recent years from a flight to quality, as companies have begun to respond to global transparency initiatives.

“We have a leading role in supporting global property/catastrophe and other insurance, which directly benefits many of the ‘poorest people’ to which Oxfam refers, as well as providing employment in many economies beyond our shores, including the UK.

“Bermuda provides one third of global property/catastrophe reinsurance, and around 14% of the aggregate global reinsurance premium is written out of Bermuda, employing 39,000 people worldwide,” the Minister concluded.

Bermuda Business Development Agency CEO Ross Webber previously said, “Unfortunately, many of the Oxfam assertions are based on flawed economics and lack of understanding.”

“We consider it an inaccurate, ill-informed and disturbingly prejudiced attack on a small north-Atlantic archipelago that exerts an enormously positive impact globally — including on the very regions and populations Oxfam wrongly accuses us of threatening.

We have long been at the forefront of transparency, cooperation and compliance with the highest international standards. That is more than evident in Bermuda’s numerous treaty partnerships with nations around the world and our leadership on guiding the evolution of regulatory best practices,” he said.

“Oxfam’s assertions may make great headlines, but they just don’t reflect economic reality. Cross-border trade via multi-national enterprises is the fuel that keeps global financial systems running smoothly,” Mr Webber added.

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Comments (16)

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  1. YADON says:

    How much is our debt? I say sue them for that amount.

  2. Curious says:

    This is a consistent issue of fact and perception that Bermuda must continue to try to get in front of with a strong brand message and communications plan. We want to move away from this type of reactive and defensive position.

    It is ironic that we are currently divided on our own issues of income, education and health benefit gaps within our Bermuda community – often referred to as the have and have not divide.

    Our tax and business structure invites corporations and high net worth individuals to locate here for many reasons and the collateral impact is a global perception of tax haven, tax avoidance and privilege.

    This is quietly managed through our legal, banking, accounting and trust professionals who sell their Bermuda services to clients around the world.

    • WarwickBoy says:

      I agree that Bda needs to get out ahead of this, but who could have imagined that an organization like Oxfam would be wading into this issue? Who next – the Cleveland, Ohio chapter of the YMCA?

  3. jt says:

    If you consider where Oxfam and those who draw salaries from Oxfam get the majority of their funding from the motivation behind a report like this becomes clear.

    • WarwickBoy says:

      Indeed – and that’s exactly why one should always question the positions taken by NGOs such as Oxfam, and treat them with skepticism until you investigate further. When you are dependent on govt largesse for your livelihood, you tend to take positions that favor larger and more intrusive government in all walks of life.

      This also applies to many other NGOs in other fields that suck at the public teat.

  4. Tired and jaded says:

    Hey – if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…….

  5. Albie says:

    It’s amazing how many Bermuda private companies are owned by trusts and as such the beneficial owners are invisible.

  6. drunken ursula says:

    Bermuda is a tax haven straight up…!

  7. jt says:

    Statement of support from Mr. Burt perhaps?

    • Will says:

      Burt probably helped with the this report..Mr webber does mention flawed economics something right up burts alley.

  8. clearasmud says:

    This report makes a huge leap into fiction when it claims that any tax not collected would be spent on the poor! Governments around the world decide for themselves what their priority is and if doing away with poverty was a priority then they would be spending on it first and foremost. If they are not spending on it as Oxfam thinks they should be doing it has nothing to do with their tax structure its all about priorities. As far as I am aware Oxfam does not get to determine any countries priorities.

  9. Not so safe says:

    After living next door to a high ranking worker at OxFam and watching them go through clothes donations for their own kids I tend to ignore anything OxFam say and do.

  10. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    The Truth will set you free !

    ” Taxation ” ! Well, that is an interesting subject.

    If there was any one thing that can destroy a nation besides War and Poverty , its Taxation, makes you wonder why our people are so unhappy.

    Material things don’t make people happy, food on the table as they say helps, but ,it is not the main problem ,it is the over all cost of living which effects every one and everything we do , that being beyond the reach of thousands which is brought about by OVER TAXATION.

    Let us compare just two items from many, say “HEALTH CARE “and “EDUCATION” the cost of both which controls our economy one is paid for by taxation, the other we/you pick up the tab ,if you had to make a choice which would you choose, Some choose to educate their children in private schools, make you wonder why, others don’t care.

    The Public schools are not free ! they are paid for by the taxpayer.

    What are we getting for our money ? our children are not being EDUCATED and that’s debatable, define education, some say we are not getting results,or not much, or much less.

    To be blunt the standard of Bermuda Public schools in today’s world is not good enough and frankly never was, as we see many ,now adults, who just slip between the cracks.

    Has our warm climate got some to do with it ?

    Who do you blame ? The Parents ,who possibly don’t care, if they had to pay for their child’s education things would be a lot different.

    Dropping public schooling in favour of privatization works, mortgage the school property and privatizing the entire process you will and only then, see the ” Great Education Miracle”.

    Every body wins !

    Simply, because Business does not hire bodies any more.