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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Ukraine visit to ensure Cyprus stays off Ukraine tax black list ]

Ukraine visit to ensure Cyprus stays off Ukraine tax black list

CYPRUS is not on the Ukrainian tax ‘black list’ and Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis’ visit to Ukraine next Monday is partly targeted at pre-empting such a development.

It is understood that what makes Cyprus a candidate for the black list is the refusal of the island’s institutions to give out information about investments made by Ukrainian nationals.

An official from the Finance Ministry told the Mail: “We’ve had problems with Ukraine because they are anxious to know about financial transactions conducted by Ukrainians whom they suspect” to be involved in potentially illegal activities.

“I hope to have a useful and successful visit so that we can find a way to solve these serious problems which we have inherited,” Starvrakis said.

“The Finance Minister is travelling to Ukraine so that we can avoid the same problems we’ve had with Russia,” the Finance Ministry official confirmed.

Last June, Cyprus was included on a similar black list issued by Russia.

The presence of Cyprus on a tax black list issued by its biggest investor for nine months betrays the difficulties involved in extricating the country from the list.

In fact, Russia’s black list was revised in December, with several countries being removed, but Cyprus has remained.

It is therefore understandable why Stavrakis is calling for political decisions, such as a bill from parliament which would address banking secrecy and information-sharing, to help achieve Cyprus’s removal from the list.

Stavrakis has said that he will visit Russia as soon as he receives a formal invitation.
“We have a high level of financial services and I would like to believe that on a political level, at least, those decisions which will remove Cyprus from the black list will be taken,” the Minister said.

A source from a leading auditing firm expressed his surprise at media reports that Cyprus had been on a Ukrainian black list.

“We didn’t know about this. I think what the Finance Minister meant was that there was a danger that we would be put on a black list, and not that we are already on the list.”

The Finance Ministry official said the problem arose in the context of negotiations about double (bilateral) taxation agreements between Cyprus and the Ukraine.

International double taxation agreements apply in cases when a business (or individual) which operates in one country makes a taxable gain in another.

In this case, the business may be obliged by domestic laws to pay tax on that gain locally and pay again in the country in which the gain was made.

Therefore, bilateral taxation agreements are struck to redress this inequity.

The auditor said that the handling of the matter by Cyprus’ negotiators at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) left a lot to be desired.

“At the OECD, model double tax treaties are drafted and discussed.

“The new model they came up with places more responsibility on countries to share information.

“This is in the wider framework of the threat of terrorism and illegal financial activities,” he explained.

“Nonetheless, our negotiators refused to sign the model treaty, suggesting that we have something to hide.

“We are a reputable financial centre, a country which carries little weight in the arena of international relations and it is a mistake to be difficult on the matter.

“We have nothing to hide, and our actions should not suggest otherwise,” he argued.

“If there are a few bad apples in the basket, then let’s help get rid of them and move on.”

He added that laws on information-sharing and banking secrecy “are a two-way street: we can give and request information, therefore they could work to our benefit too.”

Finally, a mention was made about the bill for lifting banking secrecy which is pending at the House of Representatives.

“The first draft of the bill earlier this year gave too much authority to those who wanted information from banks.

“In practice, anybody who wanted to know about someone’s banking transactions could acquire it with relative ease from the banks.

“The new bill is a lot more sober in character. It does what it should do: enable information sharing within the appropriate limits.”

“I expect it to address concerns Ukraine and other countries may have, and make for more transparent procedures as well,” he auditor concluded.

The Finance Ministry also played down the hullabaloo over possible inclusion on the Ukrainian black list: “the time to discuss these matters has yet to arrive,” the Ministry’s official said.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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