Bermuda has dismissed a study suggesting it is the world’s worst tax haven, arguing that it is the country’s “sovereign right” to set a corporation tax of zero per cent.
The British Overseas Territory books more profit that China, Canada or Germany, despite having a smaller population than Basingstoke and being a remote island 1,000km off the eastern seaboard of the US.
The territory’s Finance Minister Everard Richards expressed his “surprise and disappointment” at the Oxfam study, arguing that the country had been “wrongly included” in the list.
Oxfam warned that Bermuda’s approach to international finance – and that of three other UK-protected territories on its “world’s worst” tax haven list – “undermines Britain’s efforts to be an outward-facing, responsible member of the international community”.
The charity examined practices such as having zero or low corporation tax rates, unproductive tax incentives, or lack of cooperation with international efforts to crack down on tax avoidance.
It warned that the existence of tax regimes like Bermuda's deprived countries with actual productive industry of the tax revenue from economic activity based in their borders.
The Western world has mostly been in a period of austerity since the financial crisis of 2008, with deep cuts to public services and social security budgets across the world.
In recent years, Britian has forced down its own tax rate on corporations' profits in order to compete with other countries, with its tax take from the levy falling by billions in the latest round of figures released in October.
Other UK territories on the list of 15 were the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the British Virgin Islands.
Overseas territories rely on the UK for protection and foreign relations but are allowed to govern themselves.
Ana Arendar, Oxfam’s head of inequality, said: “Tax dodging isn’t an abstract accounting game – the lost revenue has devastating consequences for the world’s poorest people who miss out on life-saving medicines and the chance to go to school.”
“Allowing our overseas territories and Crown dependencies to operate as tax havens undermines Britain’s efforts to be an outward-facing, responsible member of the international community. It’s time to end this embarrassing contradiction in our own backyard.”
However Bermuda’s finance minister accused the charity of using the wrong methodology in ranking based on the volume of assets.
“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,” he said.
He claimed that anonymous shell corporations “simply do not exist” in Bermuda and that the country was “barely mentioned” in the so-called Panama Papers leak.
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