Country Rankings - British Virgin Islands
Aug 31, 2016 British Virgin Islands: boldNow, from one end of the tax scale to the other – to offshore. And there has been further evidence in recent weeks of just how well offshore and low-tax financial centers are performing amid economic insecurity and regulatory change. Recently, we learned that the number of active companies registered in the Cayman Islands surpassed 100,000 earlier this year; that the Isle of Man's e-gaming sector is going from strength to strength; that members of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers reported a strong 2015; and that the British Virgin Islands is of the belief that it is on the cusp of becoming the best-regulated financial services jurisdiction in the world. Of this list, the last one in particular stands out. For it was the BVI that was found to be home to many of the corporate entities set up for those exposed in the Panama Papers, and the jurisdiction was consequently excoriated by the world's media and politicians as a consequence. So it will be interesting to see if the Panama Papers affair has any effect on incorporations in the BVI, and indeed other offshore jurisdictions, when company registration data covering the period since April 2016 emerges. We probably won't begin to find out until the end of this year, or early next year. But I'm betting, if there is a dip in offshore incorporations, it's probably going to be more likely to do with economic conditions, rather than reputational concerns. Like it or not though, the major IOFCs are largely compliant with international tax and anti-money laundering standards, and they are continuing to provide investors with what they want: fiscal efficiency, stability, flexibility, and legal certainty.
Nov 30, 2015 British Virgin Islands: ConnectedI'm not a fan of social media. For me, it trivializes the huge advances that have been made in information and communication technology in recent times. As I mentioned last week, it's technology that we tend to take for granted, but we could only dream of it 50 years ago. And what do we do with it? Show our friends what we're eating for supper, and make amusing videos about our pet cats. For my part, I'm still in awe of video-calling, that I can open my laptop and see loved ones in far-flung parts of the world, as well as talk to them. I'm not, however, that interested in seeing a photo of what they had for dinner last night (a rather mouth-watering Argentinian rib-eye steak if you must know, washed down with a hearty Merlot). But anyway, I'm clearly just an old curmudgeon who is horribly out of step with the modern world. Nevertheless, what I do recognize is that for businesses of all sizes, from the kitchen table up to the Fortune 500, social media is indispensable, and those that fail to embrace it can expect to reach significantly fewer potential customers than their rivals. And I suppose the logical extension to this is for whole countries to promote themselves to investors on social media. I might be wrong, but I don't think this is an idea that has caught on much yet. Therefore, I'm awarding an encomium, albeit through gritted teeth, to the British Virgin Islands, which has had the forethought to try and gain an edge on its competitors (other offshore financial centers) by launching its own social media campaign. At least the BVI hasn't told us what it's having for dinner tonight. But I imagine it's going to be seafood.
May 08, 2015 British Virgin Islands: preparedOne territory that fears losing out in a big way as a result of BEPS and other multilateral tax initiatives is the British Virgin Islands, which is developing a new strategy for its financial services sector as a direct response to international regulatory pressures. In fact, it is not just the BVI that is facing a very real threat to its livelihood. Much of the Caribbean region – the parts of it with major financial services sectors at least – feels very vulnerable at present. A demonstration of what might lay in store for these IOFCs occurred recently in Belize, where international banks are said to be curtailing their operations due to fears of incurring regulatory fines for infractions. Banks call this "de-risking," apparently. This development followed a warning last month by Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister of "potentially devastating threats" to the Caribbean's banking sector because of perceptions that investing in Caribbean financial services is more risky than elsewhere. True, the word "offshore" is almost always used in a pejorative sense these days in relation to matters of international finance and tax. But these offshore financial industries are also vital economic lynchpins, providing tax revenue and employment in islands that have few other resources to fall back on other than their appeal to tourists. And they are vital cogs in the international financial machinery. It is another way in which the negative consequences of the BEPS plan for some territories and their people, not to mention the wider world of foreign investment, have been ill-considered, or ignored altogether. As UNCTAD observed in a recent working paper, "offshore investment hubs play a systemic role in international investment flows, and any measures at the international level that might affect the 'investment facilitation' role of offshore hubs must take into account the potential impact on global investment." But, it concludes, the movers and shakers in the OECD "pay limited attention to investment policy." And this is because of their obsession with anti-avoidance. One wonders: If the OECD does eventually succeed in nullifying IOFCs, will the worst affected territories be helped to get back on their feet by the rich countries? After observing Antigua and Barbuda's ongoing trade dispute with the United States, which has devastated the tiny country's e-gaming industry, I wouldn't bet my house on it, and the BVI certainly isn't hanging around to find out.
Jun 27, 2013 British Virgin Islands: top of the classGoody two-shoes the British Virgin Islands (offshore? moi?) jumped smartly onto the G8 bandwagon, saying that anyway it had been doing all the right things all along. It's pretty easy to say that you agree with everything when nothing was said, which was the case at David Cameron's summer country house party, where they comprehensively failed to agree on anything at all. I'm sure they all had a lovely time doing nothing in the hazy sunshine, and they didn't even have to stay up all night arguing. Shamefully, I don't have any gossip for you; WAGs do get to come along on these affairs, and there is a kind of alternative social program for them, but apart from the anodyne photo shoots outside Harrods you'd need your own spy satellite to have any chance of getting real dope on the goings-on, and you'd end up as a lifelong refugee in a hotel in Hong Kong if you tried. In fact the BVI, along with other ex-Empire specks of rock, had a good week in public perception, with a report from venerable think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs lauding their contribution to the UK's economy, and calling the Government's attitude "hypocritical," which it certainly is. The usefulness of "tax havens" is exemplified by Labuan (see our feature article in this week's issue) – another ex-British speck of rock which once was a bug-infested coaling station, and now plays a symbiotic role in Malaysian financial growth, and is involved more widely in East Asia. Oh, but how we need another word to describe tax havens, shorn of the accumulated political chaff that sticks to them: IOFCs (International Offshore Financial Centers) made a brave try, but it has the "O" word in it, which disqualifies it. Do you like AFTICs? Ancillary Financial Trading and Investment Centers. They do nothing but grow, anyway, both in number and in scale, despite the mounting wall of hysterical anti-AFTIC propaganda, which says more about the desperate straights of Western finance ministers than it says about the AFTICs. Notice that you never hear the Prime Minister of Malaysia, or for that matter China's leaders, attacking Labuan as an unacceptable excrescence.
Mar 28, 2013 British Virgin Islands: ties the knot with DubaiThe world of tax throws up all kinds of improbabilities. Whenever I see some inexplicable piece of economic behaviour, I think to myself, never mind "Cherchez la femme," just "Cherchez l'impot," and you'll understand. So no prizes for guessing why a law firm from a small island in the Caribbean went to a patch of desert in the Arabian Gulf to organize financing for an oil refinery outside Cairo. That's the BVI and Dubai, of course. The future of "offshore" lies with corporate transactions, it has been obvious for a while: this week the last of the UK's offshore dependencies, Jersey, threw in the towel and along with Guernsey and the Isle of Man will sign mini-FATCA IGAs with the UK as well as with the IRS. All three of those places are pretty much finished as tax havens for individuals, and they don't care: they want fund managers, insurance companies, corporate IP holding companies, SPV flotations on AIM and the like. It will be interesting to see how the "fairness" merchants set about trying to stop them. Perhaps they won't even try, for all their public rhetoric?
Jan 10, 2013 British Virgin Islands: everyone's favorite beachWhile the BVI ends 2012 smelling of roses, its companion Caribbean destination the Cayman Islands is smelling of something distinctly less sweet. This traditional hate object for Beltway Democrats seems to be getting it all wrong, and had a simply terrible year in 2012. For all I know, the defenestrated premier is being 100% traduced, but in PR terms the affair has been a disaster for the islands, and at the minimum you have to say that the government has been cack-handed in its running of the economy, with multiple budgets being shot down by the UK Foreign Office, and the imposition of a compulsory recovery regime. There is nothing wrong with the financial sector, which is booming away as usual, but that just makes it all the more extraordinary that the government got itself into such financial trouble. If any one statelet in the world should have money coming out of its ears, it should be Cayman.