(CMC) – The Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) has called on the parliamentary opposition to support efforts aimed at reforming income tax legislation even as the government Monday warned that the country could be blacklisted for its failure to meet its international obligations.
“The proposed amendments would facilitate the exchange of information for tax purposes and effectively combat money laundering and terrorism financing. This is in line with BATT’s efforts to ensure a stronger and more stable financial sector macroeconomic framework that sustains economic growth,” the BATT said in a statement.
Attorney General Faris Al Rawi said that he intends writing to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar seeking support for the measure in Parliament that needs a special majority to take effect.
He told a news conference that the Persad Bissessar led coalition People’s Partnership administration had during its term in office committed Trinidad and Tobago to meeting the conditions laid down by the Global Forum in a bid to be compliant with the norms within the global community.
“This bill very importantly provides that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service with the Financial Investigations Division for fraud, money laundering and terrorism financing that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service should have access to tax payer information for ongoing proceedings …and very importantly that the police should have access where there is an investigation for these types of matters.
“We are the only country in the Global Forum pot to be fully noncompliant. We are the only country of 154 countries in the world to be fully noncompliant. Is that a distinction you want to have?” he said, urging the media to “enter into this equation” in a a bid to bring the severity of the situation to the general public.”
The legislation was read in the Trinidad and Tobago parliament last weekend and it seeks to ensure that the country is in compliance with the International Standard on Exchange of Information on request, commonly referred as the EOIR standard.
The government said the amendments will advance the country’s international ratings and enable banks to efficiently maintain cross-border correspondent banking relationships.
The aim is to improve transparency and compliance of international anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing policies. If these amendments are not passed, local banks could face the threat of “de-risking,” where foreign financial institutions can refuse to do business with local counterparts to mitigate the risk of doing business in countries considered to be non-compliant.
The main opposition United National Congress (UNC) has said that the legislation could infringe on privacy rights and needed to be examined.
But in its statement, the BATT said while it notes “the concerns expressed by some members of the Opposition, we would like to assure the general public that adequate mechanisms are in place internationally and domestically to prevent any abuse of the information shared with any jurisdiction. As with the passage of the FATCA legislation, only information relative to citizens of foreign jurisdiction will be eligible for sharing with those jurisdictions”.
It said that failure to pass this legislation could disrupt the smooth flow of correspondent banking relationships between domestic banks and their international correspondents.
“Cognizant of the vital role that correspondent banking plays in the functioning of the local financial services industry and the wider economy, BATT urges co-operation in the passage of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, so as to ensure compliance with international financial integrity standards,” BATT said, pledging its support.