Bahamas On Track to Implement Common Reporting Standard (CRS)

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Minister of Financial Services, the Hon. Hope Strachan is pictured addressing the forum, and with members of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), during a luncheon held at the British Colonial Hilton on Thursday, January 19, 2017. (BIS Photos/Derek Smith)

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Bahamas has taken many steps to comply with global standards in the financial services sector. One such step is the implementation of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). The Common Reporting Standard (CRS), developed in response to the G20 request and approved by the OECD Council on 15 July 2014, calls on jurisdictions to obtain information from their financial institutions and automatically exchange that information with other jurisdictions on an annual basis.

During a luncheon of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) held at the British Colonial Hilton on Thursday, January 19, 2017 Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, the Hon. Hope Strachan spoke of recent efforts to implement the standard in the sector.

“Throughout, we have demonstrated not only our resilience and determination to remain relevant and competitive for a future that can only be shaped by the choices we make and not by the chances we take, but also our efforts to ensure that we continue to adhere to best practices and follow compliance with international regulatory standards strategically aligned with national interests and goals that not only meet these international standards, but also go beyond to set standards that will help to improve the reputation of The Bahamas. Therefore, it is important that we continue to develop, monitor and build systems and mechanisms that will improve our capacity to mitigate risks against market integrity, efficiency and stability, ” said Minister Strachan.

She said that the journey to implementing the standard has been a challenging one, but that the government was on schedule to successfully implement the CRS in 2018.

“With my Ministry as the coordinating Ministry of the Task Force created to facilitate the CRS implementation comprising the Ministry of Finance, the Attorney General’s Office, the Bahamas Financial Services Board (“BFSB”) and other industry participants, we have caused the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters Act 2016 (“Act”) to be enacted, the enabling legislation for the implementation of the CRS, which came in to force on January 1st, 2017.”

She explained that the Ministry has already sent out letters of intent to the initial 45 countries with whom The Bahamas intends to exchange information with under the Act, and have since begun negotiations.

“The regulations and guidelines for the CRS have been drafted and are currently under review. The draft regulations are scheduled to be released before the end of January 2017,” she said.

She also said that the (trade) portal system that will be used for the exchange of information by the Competent Authority is under review to be modified for CRS.

“This is the system currently being used to facilitate the FATCA platform. And, human resources are being increased to ensure we have the manpower to ensure our success in this endeavor.” FATCA stands for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. FATCA is United States (“US”) legislation that primarily aims to prevent tax evasion by US taxpayers by using non-US financial institutions and offshore investment instruments.

The Ministry held an information session with members of the business community on the launch of a trade portal. The event was held on Wednesday, January 18, at SuperClubs Breezes.