The Lord Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, referenced issues raised in the recent Fair Tax Now report published by the Christian campaign group Church Action for Tax Justice, which was critical of the actions of the UK and its offshore territories in allegedly depriving developing nations of wealth.
The high-ranking clergyman said that the UK used its offshore centres to extract money from poorer nations while denying them their tax take.
‘The presence of tax havens, whether they be British Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies, combined with their close connection to the financial might of the City of London, facilitates an international network that syphons money out of nations and into these jurisdictions, with their low tax, weak legislation and easily exploitable loopholes,’ he said.
‘While I am pleased that the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies have all committed to publish public registers of beneficial ownership by 2023, these territories will remain lucrative places to those seeking to avoid paying tax.
‘According to the 2019 corporate tax haven index, four of the top ten havens globally were UK associated territories: the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Jersey.
‘The 2023 changes may go some way towards reducing their use, but the reality is that the City of London and the UK’s associated territories will continue to be at the centre of a network for international tax avoidance,’ he said.
He added that the UK government’s plans to develop post-Brexit low tax and low regulation ‘freeport’ zones within its territory could create ‘onshore tax havens’, and create a corporation tax ‘race to the bottom’.
The Island has come under the international spotlight recently after EU parliamentarians called for Jersey and other offshore centres to be blacklisted for their tax practices, such as having zero rate corporation tax.
Representatives of the finance sector, such as Jersey Finance chief executive Joe Moynihan and External Relations Minister Ian Gorst, have insisted that the Island is not a ‘tax haven’ and pointed to its record of compliance with international standards.