James Quarmby, Partner – Stephenson Harwood, expert in tax planning, talks about his experience of speaking at an event in Guernsey and the future of International Finance Centres (IFCs):
“I was pleased to be a guest of Locate Guernsey, STEP and the Guernsey Association of Trustees (GAT) at St James on the morning of 9th June at 7.30AM. It was great to see so many people from the finance industry attending, given the early start! I am grateful to Mourant Ozannes for sponsoring this event.
My main message was that the international finance industry faces many new challenges in the light of the Panama Papers and assorted initiatives from the OECD, the EU and the G8/G20.
There is also a more existential threat from an adverse press and NGOs, such as the ‘tax justice’ campaigners and certain large charities. It is important that the IFCs do not just hide in the closet and hope that the storm blows over – instead they must develop an alternative narrative which the press and the public can understand.
Guernsey and the other IFCs must demand the same rights that citizens of large countries enjoy – that is the right to earn a living and to preserve their communities.
The people who work in the finance industry do so honestly and well within the boundaries of the law and they should not be threatened because of the ill-informed prejudice of larger countries and those that support them. There is more than just the whiff of bullying about the way that the EU in particular deals with the IFCs, with repeated attempts to impose standards that the member states themselves have no intention of abiding by. This is a modern form of imperialism, with larger countries ganging up on smaller ones.
It is important that the IFCs call any hypocrisy that they see and demand to be treated fairly and consistently. This is particularly important in the context of the ever-present threat of EU sanctions on ‘un-cooperative’ jurisdictions and the actions of individual member states who regularly place IFCs on blacklists for apparently no reason other than prejudice.
The world must realise that Guernsey may bring benefits to certain business and individuals due to its taxation advantages, however, it also has a thriving community and strong heritage which long predates its finance industry.”