Regardless of who is right about the motives, the resignations from an international committee set up to review practices in Panama's financial industry, and the ensuing squabbling, has only aggravated the bad perception of these practices.
The presence of the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and the notorious Swiss criminologist Mark Pieth along with Panamanian and regional personalities, in a commission to review the practices of the local financial industry, had the obvious good intention of communicating to the world Panama's also good intentions of reversing the country's image as a tax haven.
Government to government agreements simplify compliance with the rule that seeks transparency in the finances of U.S. citizens abroad.
Elfinancierocr.com reports that "the Foreign Account Compliance Act (FATCA) is a reality and the truth is that to date, there are very few financial institutions in our region who are prepared to meet the requirements of this U.S. legislation. The reason: the majority are waiting for clarification on some gray areas, especially given the possibility that the U.S. government will sign intergovernmental agreements which will simplify the reporting process. "
An alliance of small territories has been proposed to encourage a discussion with the OECD over financial centers, and bring it to the attention of the United Nations.
An article in Prensa.com examines the opinions of a variety of analysts at the second Step Latam Conference held in Panama, regarding pressure from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on countries to comply with their requirements on tax information exchange.
In Costa Rica an agreement with the United Mexican States on the Exchange of Information in Tax Matters is in force.
From la Gaceta 101 of 25 May 2012:
PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF AGREEMENT
The competent authorities of the Contracting Parties will provide assistance through exchange of information that is foreseeably relevant to the administration and enforcement of domestic law with respect to taxes or tariffs covered by this Agreement. The information will include such things as is foreseeably relevant to the determination, assessment and collection of such tax or tariffs, for the collection and enforcement of tax claims or investigation or prosecution of tax matters.
If Panama does not efficiently and effectively provide the information required by foreign authorities, it will worsen the current perception of non-cooperation.
An analysis of this thorny issue made by Carlos Barsallo, president of the National Securities Commission, makes clear that since 1949, the adoption of Act 62 of 1938, Resolution 38 October 1949 and the reform of the Tax Code 1957 and subsequent regulations, have the clear purpose of turning Panama into an offshore financial services center (commonly known as a tax haven).
In light of its inclusion in the list of countries who do not have sufficient "fiscal transparency", Panama has requested a supplemental report that includes all measures implemented in the area since May 2010.
A statement from the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama reads:
The country has not been able to pass the first filter set by the Global Forum on Fiscal Transparency.
Accompanied by Uruguay and Barbados, among other countries, Panama is part of the list of countries that, according to the OECD, do not meet certain rules to promote tax transparency, for example, the implementation of information exchange agreements.
BNP Paribas, who recently announced its exit from Panama, is one more big bank joining the exodus of important financial entities leaving the country.
Chase Manhattan Bank was the first big bank to leave the country, in 2000. It was followed by The Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Banque Sudameris, BankBoston, UBS, ABN Amro Bank, Societé Génerale and now BNP Paribas.
For this to occur, it was enough to send a letter to the OECD, agreeing to adopt the international standard for the exchange of tax information.
Following the decision by the G20 to act against nations that fail to cooperate in the international exchange of tax information in their last meeting in London, Costa Rica had to act quickly to get out of the "black list" of countries that were not committed to adopting this standard. It was enough, like the other three countries in the same situation (Uruguay, Malaysia and Philippines), to send a document to the OECD adopting the commitment.
They are included in an OECD list of countries that have not implemented the international standard for exchanging tax information.
However, the status of each of these countries is different for the OECD. Panama and Guatemala have committed themselves to the implementation of the international standard for the exchange of tax information, but with the difference that Panama was included in a list of tax havens in the 1998 OECD Report while Guatemala was not blacklisted.
Chicas Vilchez & Ruiz is a professional finance and accounting firm providing Auditing, Consulting, Outsourcing, and Tax services in El Salvador, Central America and the United States.
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