Sunday, 9 April 2017

A Reflection on The Common Reporting Standards

With over 100 countries as signatories to the CRS Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement there will be little need for incidents such as the Panama papers ( for tax authorities to find out what their tax residents were squirreling away. The CRS which stands for Common Reporting Standards is in essence an automatic annual financial information exchange tool for tax authorities. It allows a tax authority to inform another tax authority of the financial accounts held by their tax residents in the first mentioned tax authority jurisdiction.

As of July 1, 2017 the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will share, with members of the CRS Multilateral Agreement with which the CRA has formalized a CRS partnership, details of the bank accounts held by their residents in Canada. In return, the CRA will receive information on financial accounts held by Canadian residents outside of Canada from its CRS partners. Canadians investing significant assets overseas where banks pay higher interest rates than domestic Canadian banks will now not be able to remain undetected from CRA. These Canadians who have maintained accounts overseas without disclosing the income earned on such accounts must consider the voluntary disclosure procedures to see relief from penalties that will be levied by the CRA.

The Canadian Financial Institutions will provide the non-resident's account holder's name and address, his or her date of birth, the account balance or value at year end and certain amounts credited or paid into the account during the year to the CRA. Unlike the U.S. FATCA legislation, the CRS has no de minimis amount for reporting purposes.
The United States is not a signatory to the CRS Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement as its FATCA legislation has been fairly successful in uncovering accounts held outside the US by US persons. Although the U.S. is not a signatory to the CRS – it should be noted that the U.S. has an automatic exchange relationship with 43 countries whereby deposit interest paid to non-residents are disclosed to the tax authorities of these 43 countries. See The 43 countries are: Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

It is often thought that the U.S. by not being a signatory to the Common Reporting Standards retained the taint of a tax haven. An argument can be made that it does for the tax residents of the countries who are not part of the "automatic exchange relationship". For the tax authorities of those countries - it will be only through a formal request under the tax treaty or tax information exchange agreement that information can be obtained on deposits held by US financial institutions in the U.S.

Sunita Doobay

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