Sent last week, the prime minister’s letter praised the jurisdictions' developments in transparency before emphasising the general importance of publically accessible central registers of beneficial ownerships.
Jersey’s chief minister Ian Gorst welcomed Cameron’s recognition of the island’s approach to transparency, but said Jersey’s model of licensing and regulation of trust and company service providers would benefit the UK.
“We consider such provisions to be essential for law enforcement and for tax authorities to obtain accurate, adequate and up-to date information on beneficial ownership to help combat tax evasion, money laundering and corruption,” he said.
Chief executive at Jersey Finance, Geoff Cook, said a public registry would diminish the UK’s attractiveness as a foreign direct investment destination and layer up costs for its companies, negatively affecting international competitiveness.
“The Jersey model of combining full regulation of all corporate service providers, obligatory capture of beneficial ownership information, and the criminalising of the handling of the proceeds of crime, including tax evasion, is a much more effective model,” he added
Fiona Le Poidevin, chief executive of Guernsey Finance, welcomed the PM’s recognition of the island’s work with the UK but doubted the effectiveness of his plans for transparency.
“Whether [transparent beneficial ownership] will include a truly public register remains to be seen, given the significant implications,” she said.
She added that Guernsey was one of only a handful of jurisdictions to require all beneficial owners of companies and other legal persons to be properly identified and recorded by regulated corporate service providers.
“Guernsey is ahead of the curve and we look forward to other jurisdictions stepping up to the mark so that we can help create a level playing field on beneficial ownership.”
In the letter, Cameron said he looked forward to introducing a publically accessible central domestic registry as soon as possible through UK legislation.
He also applauded overseas territories that had been promoting high international standards since last year’s G8 agenda on tax and transparency.
“[The registers] will shed light on those who have provided false information, helping to tackle crime where it occurs and deter people from providing this false information in the first place,” he said.
Earlier this week, an online community with more than 35 million members began a petition pressuring the Jersey government into creating a register of beneficial owners.
The petition was launched by Avaaz member Christoph Schott who called on “friends across the UK” to pressure Jersey into “unmask[ing] the real owners of companies stashing their cash [on Jersey]”.
Meanwhile, George Osborne has announced that the UK will be signing an "unprecedented" international agreement on the automatic sharing of tax information in October, with almost 50 countries sharing from 31 December 2015.
In preparation, HM Revenue & Customs will use its “Connect” detection system to encourage 2000 individuals to declare their offshore assets.
James Hender, partner at private wealth group Saffery Champness, said those avoiding their tax dues should come clean now.
“There appears to be plenty of time before the new system comes into force, but it won’t feel like that for the 2,000 targeted in this test run,” he said.
“With this latest announcement we see some real evidence that serious steps are being taken. Previously, the lack of co-operation between countries was a major impediment to progress.”
He added that the list may encounter problems in its implementation: “There could be teething problems with this new system. The tax positions of those holding assets in a number of different jurisdictions can be complex, not least because of double taxation agreements.
“The system will also involve the transfer and analysis of data on a truly colossal scale, which is not without risk of error.”