Guyana’s parliament has approved new legislation allowing authorities to share commercial banking information of Guyanese and American citizens with the U.S. Inland Revenue Service as the Caribbean Community member nation becomes the latest of its regional neighbors to comply with a new U.S. anti tax evasion law designed to trap hidden overseas holdings.
The bill was approved in the 65-seat house at the weekend but opposition legislators Monday called for the bill to be sent to a bipartisan select house committee to allow further scrutiny and for a clause to be inserted giving an account holder three week’s notice that information will be shared with foreign authorities, a suggestion that was rejected outright by the government side. Legislators thought the idea was preposterous and would defeat the entire purpose of the law.
The new legislation will target Americans who stash cash and other holdings abroad, believing that it will be beyond the reach of the IRS and its team of expert auditors. Once President David Granger who won general elections in May signs the bill into law in the coming days, those with undeclared foreign accounts should sit up and take notice.
Governing legislators in rejecting the calls for the 21-day notice period, argued that the bill has already been approved as the country moves to comply with Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act as is the case with most of its Caribbean single trading bloc neighbors.
Ironically, the bill also ensures that the local revenue authority will also be able to obtain information from the U.S. about Guyanese with foreign bank accounts that are believed to be linked to misappropriation, narcotic activity or money laundering.
Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma said the opposition opposed the bill because several in the previous government had enriched themselves and have money stashed overseas.
“This is the nitty, gritty that is bothering them.” Former attorney general Anil Nandlill says the bill will forced people to “go back to mattress banks,” meaning that they will opt to stash it under beds rather than expose themselves to the prying eyes of the revenue authority.
The bill was passed with government’s simple one-seat majority as government officials prepare top haul several big wigs associated with the previous Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar administrations before the courts for a slew of wrongdoings linked to laundering, graft, bribery and fraud.
Chief among them could be former finance minister Ashni Singh for breaches of financial regulations and Winston Brassington, the head of a national holding company for state assets.
Published information for forensic audits the seven-month-old administration has released so far has pointed to damning evidence against the two and other associates even as pressure mounts on authorities to quickly haul them before the courts before they take counter measures.
Additionally, fear is also stalking the ranks of the main opposition as the U.S. has opened a permanent office of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and is moving for closer cooperation with law enforcement agencies to target launderers and those associated with the drug trade.