Finance professionals were alerted to future UK legislation focusing on tax evasion and avoidance and wider corporate economic crime in a seminar hosted by us last week entitled ‘Business Ethics – The Bribery Act was just the start…'
Using the existing Bribery Act 2010 in the UK as a framework for the discussion, expert lawyers from Macfarlanes in London joined with us in highlighting new laws that were in the pipeline, the current thinking of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and how professionals locally should respond to avoid falling foul of legislation that is certain to reach beyond UK shores.
Welcoming trustees and other wealth management professionals and advisers to the Pomme d’Or Hotel seminar, David Cadin, Managing Partner at Bedell Cristin, described business ethics as the topic of the moment: ‘We are at the vanguard of offshore practice and we must apply the highest possible standards to what we do,’ he told the 90 strong audience, ahead of the presentations by Lois Horne, Gideon Sanitt and James Popperwell, Partners from Macfarlanes and Edward Drummond, Partner at Bedell Cristin.
During the seminar the panellists outlined the corporate offence set out in the Bribery Act and how it had been applied using practical examples of prosecutions and deferred prosecution agreements in the UK. They focused on how the same legislative model was likely to be extended to crimes such as tax evasion and examined the scope of ‘failure to prevent’ rules as they might relate to intermediaries and advisers, including those in the Channel Islands.
The discussion expanded to highlight new offences dealing with wider economic crime. Details of the options for reform contained in a paper issued by the UK Ministry of Justice last month were outlined and Jersey practitioners were urged to participate in the consultation that would follow so that industry would be able to help shape the forthcoming legislation.
Edward Drummond placed the discussion into context on how the current Bribery Act compared to the Corruption (Jersey) Law 2006, how bribery has been dealt with in Jersey quoting examples from the Jersey courts and considered the regulatory and legal consequences of the changes that have been mooted and how this would affect the work of Jersey practitioners.
In the question and answer session that followed, delegates asked about the balance between enforcing strong and robust standards and the need to do business post Brexit in countries where compliance was less effective, the dividing line between tax avoidance and evasion and the future for disclosure schemes such as DOTAS (Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes). There was a general consensus that HMRC will continue to bring forward legislation that helps to change behaviour amongst professionals and that any new legislation will be far reaching territorially so Jersey professionals need to be prepared.
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