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GUERNSEY
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International Agreements

Guernsey Double Tax Treaties

As a matter of policy Guernsey does not normally enter tax treaties. However, double taxation agreements exist with the United Kingdom and Jersey. These treaties do not conform to the OECD standard model treaty. Their main features are as follows:

  1. The profits derived from an industrial or commercial enterprise in one country will not be taxed in the other country except to the extent that they are attributable to a permanent establishment;
  2. Profits of shipping or air transport attributable to a resident of either country are not taxed in the other country, regardless of 1.
  3. An individual resident in only one of the two countries is exempt from tax in the other country on personal, including professional services performed in the other country on behalf of a resident of his own country (but they must be taxed in his own country)
  4. If despite the above, tax is payable in both countries, the tax paid in one country is allowed as a credit against tax due in the other.

The agreement with the United Kingdom specifically excludes dividends and debenture interest from its provisions. Exempt and International Companies (abolished since January 1, 2008) are not entitled to the benefits of the UK double tax treaty.

Guernsey has also signed a Tax and Information Agreement (TIEA) with the UK, and has agreed to amend the provisions of the 1952 arrangement to add provisions on the taxation of income from pensions and a mutual agreement procedure.

Guernsey, along with its fellow UK dependent territories Jersey and the Isle of Man, is party to the EU's Savings Tax Directive, which went into force in July 2005. Under the agreement with the EU, Guernsey applies a withholding tax (initially 15%) on savings income paid to the citizens of EU member states. The withholding tax increased to 20% from July 1, 2008 for a period of three years, after which it will rise to 35%.

In July 2009, the Guernsey government released a statement regarding the Isle of Man’s decision to switch from a withholding tax system to the automatic exchange of information from July 1, 2011, when the withholding tax option currently available to customers having accounts with Isle of Man banks as part of a transitional arrangement will be withdrawn.

The Guernsey government has underlined that it has always considered the withholding tax arrangement to be transitional, and has begun a consultation with industry about a review of the position in the island.

Mike Brown, Chief Executive of the States of Guernsey commented at the time that:

"The international climate is changing with regards to exchange of information. We are fully aware of those developments and have had the position under review for some time.

"Guernsey’s commitment to the highest international standards in transparency is constant."

Guernsey International Agreements

In September, 2002, Guernsey and the United States signed an agreement designed to provide for the exchange of information on money laundering and tax evasion activities.

Then US Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, who signed the agreement on behalf of the American authorities stated that: "This new agreement will formalise and streamline our current co-operation in criminal tax matters and will allow exchange of information on specific requests in civil tax matters as well."

The US Treasury Department announced in May, 2006, that an exchange of letters between the United States and the States of Guernsey to bring the agreement into effect had been completed on March 30, 2006.

In 2004, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission and the Malta Financial Services Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding which provides a framework for closer cooperation between the two regulatory bodies. The Memorandum provides a formal basis for cooperation, including the exchange of information and investigative assistance.

Peter Neville, Director General of the Commission, commented: “I am very pleased to have taken this step. I advised Malta on the setting up of its investment service regulation, and I have known the Maltese regulators for many years.” He added: “This Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and the Malta Financial Services Authority is another step towards strengthening our relationship, providing a formal basis by which we can cooperate and exchange vital information."

In June 2005, the Guernsey FSC and Hong Kong's securities and futures markets regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission, signed a Letter of Intent which provides a framework for enhanced cooperation between the two authorities.

The Letter of Intent, the first to be signed by the Hong Kong SFC with a regulatory body outside Asia, provides a formal basis for strengthening regulatory cooperation, particularly with regard to the supervision of investment products and cross-border trading.

Commenting on the development, Peter Neville, observed that:

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to sign this Letter of Intent with the Hong Kong SFC. The Guernsey Commission and the SFC have developed a very close working relationship over the years. For example, 3 Guernsey umbrella funds with 33 classes have been authorised by the SFC for marketing to the public in Hong Kong. The Letter of Intent is an important further step in deepening that relationship."

In March 2007, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). This MoU has formalised arrangements for co-operation and information sharing between the two regulators.

Commenting on the MoU, David Knott, then Chief Executive of the DFSA observed: “The business links between financial firms in Guernsey and the Dubai International Financial Centre will become increasingly significant, especially with the introduction last year of trust and collective investment fund regimes in the DIFC, making the GFSC an important relationship for the DFSA.”

He added: “Today’s bilateral agreement reflects each agency’s responsibilities, not just for securities, but as an integrated regulator of its banking and insurance sectors. It recognises that both regulators place reliance on the quality of regulatory standards administered in the other’s jurisdiction.”

In October 2007, the Guernsey government announced that a new Social Security Agreement with Ireland had come into force.

"This is good news for people in Guernsey who have also lived and worked in Ireland," announced Deputy Dan Le Cheminant, Guernsey's Social Security Deputy Minister. "Under this new Agreement, they may be able to get a small, part pension from Ireland when they reach the age of 65 by taking account of social security contributions paid in the past."

Besides pensions, the agreement also covers a number of other benefits, including bereavement benefits, sickness, invalidity and unemployment. It also sets out the rules for where contributions should be paid.

In October 2008, Guernsey's Chief Minister Lyndon Trott signed agreements on exchange of tax information with seven Nordic countries, including Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Under the terms of these agreements, the Nordic Countries and Guernsey will, on request, exchange bank and other information relating to both criminal and civil tax matters. In addition to the TIEAs, reciprocal agreements were signed that lift the burden of double taxation in a number of specific areas such as shipping and air transport. It is anticipated by the Guernsey government that the signing of these agreements will create the opportunity for Guernsey to negotiate further agreements to avoid double taxation with each of the Nordic countries in the future.

Commenting on the Nordic agreements, Deputy Trott said: "The importance of exchanging tax information has been increased by economic globalisation. I am delighted that at its recent meeting the OECD recognised the significant progress we have made to achieve its rigorous standards. We now have nine agreements in place – a testament to our commitment to transparency."

A new tax information exchange agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Guernsey was signed in London on January 20, 2009 by William Bach, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, and Chief Minister Lyndon Trott. The governments also agreed to amend the provisions of the 1952 arrangement between the two governments for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income, notably to add provisions on the taxation of income from pensions and a mutual agreement procedure.

Welcoming the signature, then Financial Secretary to the UK Treasury, Stephen Timms said: "This new tax information exchange agreement represents a significant step in our efforts to counter and prevent tax evasion and avoidance. I welcome the willingness of the States of Guernsey to implement these high standards of transparency and exchange of information."

Lord Bach, Crown Dependencies Minister added: "The signing of this agreement shows the collaborative nature of the relationship between the UK and Guernsey, and Guernsey's commitment to meeting high international standards."

According to the Income Tax (Guernsey) (Approval of Agreement with United Kingdom) Ordinance, 2009, this TIEA was due to come into force on March 25, 2009.

On March 26, tax cooperation agreements between Ireland and Jersey, and Ireland and Guernsey were signed.

There are two agreements with each: a tax information exchange agreement; and an agreement for affording relief from double taxation with respect to certain income of individuals and establishing a mutual agreement procedure in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises.

The Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) is based on a model agreement developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It will allow the Irish Revenue Commissioners to request information from their Jersey or Guernsey counterparts that is relevant to an Irish tax investigation. Such information would typically relate to bank accounts or the beneficial ownership of companies or trusts. Likewise, Jersey and Guernsey authorities may request the Revenue Commissioners to obtain and provide information of relevance to their tax investigations.

An agreement for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to income and corporation taxes was also signed with both jurisdictions.

In April 2009, Guernsey released a statement welcoming its ‘white listing’ by the OECD as a result of the G20 summit in London.

Chief Minister Lyndon Trott said that the island’s inclusion on a white list with some of the world’s top financial centres cemented Guernsey’s position as an internationally compliant and transparent low tax jurisdiction.

“It has been a long and hard process to get where we are today. Recognition as a jurisdiction which has substantially implemented the internationally-agreed tax standard is nothing more than we deserve,” said Trott.

“Guernsey is a well-regulated, transparent, co-operative jurisdiction and the international community appears to have embraced that message. The news will serve as a massive boost for business in Guernsey and the island’s economy.”

Guernsey had signed 13 Tax Information Exchange Agreements at the time and was preparing to sign more as an indication of its commitment to international cooperation in tax matters.

On July 21, Guernsey’s Chief Minister signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the New Zealand government.

Unlike previous TIEAs, the agreement with New Zealand is a composite one, instead of there being separate agreements where additional benefits are agreed. The agreement covers exchange of information and the allocation of certain taxing rights for individuals, but each of the provisions is comparable to those in the other TIEAs signed by Guernsey.

Under the agreement, Guernsey will, on request, exchange bank and other information relating to both criminal and civil tax matters.

Also signed at the meeting was a political joint declaration, further establishing the economic relationship between the governments of New Zealand and Guernsey. The island can expect to gain legislative recognition in New Zealand to the benefit of Guernsey’s finance industry.

HM Treasury in the United Kingdom issued a statement in July 2009 welcoming Guernsey’s progress in signing agreements on the exchange of information, which is strengthening its reputation as a jurisdiction committed to good governance in tax matters.

In HM Treasury’s statement, Financial Secretary, Stephen Timms said:

“I warmly welcome Guernsey’s continuing progress in concluding Tax Information Exchange Agreements. Guernsey’s firm commitment to transparency and exchange of information in tax matters is very encouraging, and I call on others to follow their example”.

The United Kingdom also recognised Guernsey’s commitment to international standards of anti-money laundering legislation and practice, counter terrorist financing legislation and financial regulation, and also commended Guernsey’s participation in international efforts to combat financial crimes.

In October 2009, Guernsey announced the signing of its fifteenth Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), with Australia.

The agreement was signed on October 7 by Guernsey Chief Minister Lyndon Trott and Australian High Commissioner in the UK, John Dauth.

An agreement for the allocation of taxing rights and the mutual agreement of transfer pricing adjustments was also signed at the same time.

Guernsey has already concluded TIEAs with Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.

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