Minister of International Business Donville Inniss is cautioning that Barbados will not soon escape the stain brought upon it for being declared a tax haven.
“The tax haven label is not something that has gone away, slowed down or will go away in any foreseeable future,” Inniss told Barbados TODAY.
This sentiment came on the heels of the recent move by the American state of Illinois to blacklist Barbados as a tax haven, following the introduction of a new bill by the state’s house of representatives.
Bill HB3419, which also names a number of other regional and international countries, forbids businesses operating in jurisdictions considered “foreign tax havens” from submitting a bid or entering into a contract with the state of Illinois.
The new measure also restricts “expatriate corporations” in the countries named from doing business with the state.
Inniss, who said he was not aware of any such corporations in Barbados or that this country did international business directly with the state of Illinois, suggested that there was no merit to the move to blacklist Barbados as a tax haven.
“It is a classic example of every time you do the things that are expected of you to get a fair rating and hearing somebody comes with a label,” said Inniss.
“As a matter of fact I think they just looked at the map and picked a couple of countries in a particular geographical space without even looking to see if there is any substance to what has been prepared,” he said.
Inniss told Barbados TODAY he has since sent correspondence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade “for direction to our ambassador in the US for our transmission to that particular state and their representatives.
“We are not taking these things lightly because even if we don’t do business or have companies with that particular state, the reality is that the message coming from that state is being picked up by other states and other countries and then you have the snowball effect,” he said, pointing out that the view expressed by the state of Illinois was not necessarily that of the United States, with which Barbados has treaties in place.
The minister said the decision in October last year by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to upgrade Barbados to a “largely compliant” jurisdiction in relation to tax matters and exchange of information was an indication that the country was not a tax haven.
At the same time he acknowledged that the island still had a lot of work to do in relation to tax matters and exchange of information as the goal post continues to shift.
Inniss said he was satisfied that Barbados continued to engage its international partners on the matter instead of just sitting back and “taking what people give us”.
He lauded the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), saying had it not been for that association the island would not have been as forward looking in the international business arena.
“We perhaps would have made some mistakes along the way had we not had that energized and forward looking group, BIBA. I can boldly say that they really work well with us and help to keep us on our toes in Government,” Inniss said.