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UK crown dependencies agree greater tax transparency

The clouds of secrecy may be lifting
The clouds of secrecy may be lifting AFP/File
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London (AFP)

Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man plan by 2023 to publish the currently secret information on ownership of companies registered in the UK crown dependencies, they announced Wednesday, heeding calls for greater tax transparency.

The UK government had drawn the wrath of transparency groups by delaying in March proposed legislation aimed at ending secret company ownership in its offshore territories despite greater pressure by the international community to crack down on nations whose regulations make it easy for people to hide their wealth from authorities in their home countries.

The islands have responded by jointly proposing "a series of steps regarding each jurisdiction's central register of beneficial ownership information of companies and how they will move towards developing international standards of accessibility and transparency".

They added in a statement: "The three jurisdictions have a long track record of high standards which are effective in helping to tackle financial crime and countering the financing of terrorism, and all three actively support the development of global standards of transparency."

The European Union had threatened to include the tiny territories in a list of tax havens if they failed to improve transparency rules.

The crown dependencies on Wednesday insisted that their announcement is "consistent with the EU's approach to transparency of beneficial ownership data of companies under the EU's Fifth Money Laundering Directive".

The three crown dependencies are internally self-governing possessions of the British crown for which the United Kingdom is responsible under international law.

The BBC has reported that they are home to 76,000 companies -- nearly one for every three people living there.

All three islands are meanwhile mirroring moves by Britain's overseas territories, which are set to publish their own registers by the end of 2023.

These include the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands -- two territories that are home to tens of thousands of companies with overseas owners taking advantage of low tax rates and looser transparency rules.

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