Barbados, in common with a number of other jurisdictions, was required by the European Union (EU) Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation to introduce economic substance requirements for companies’ tax resident on the island. As a result, Barbados has introduced economic substance legislation for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2020. Barbados tax resident companies carrying on relevant activities will be required to meet an economic substance test.
Relevant activities are defined as any of the following businesses:
- Fund management
- Finance and leasing
- Holding company
- Intellectual property
- Distribution and service centre
There are financial penalties in the case of failure to meet the economic substance test of up to BBD 300,000. After failing to meet the economic substance test for two consecutive years, the Director of International Business may issue an order that the company be struck off the register of companies. There is provision for appeal against penalty determinations.
United States (US) Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)
On 17 November 2014, the US Treasury and Barbados signed and released an intergovernmental agreement (IGA). The regulations to the Income Tax Act to allow for automatic exchange of information were enacted on 3 September 2015, and the IGA entered into force on 25 September 2015.
Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters
Barbados has signed and ratified the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which entered into force, in respect of Barbados, on 1 November 2016 and for taxable periods beginning after 2017. Under the convention, Barbados will exchange tax information based on OECD standards, but is not required to collect taxes on behalf of another country or provide assistance in the service of related documents.
Common Reporting Standard (CRS)
In November 2014, the G20 countries endorsed a new CRS for automatic exchange of information developed by the OECD. Under the CRS, foreign tax authorities will provide information to the Barbados Revenue Authority relating to financial accounts in their jurisdictions held by Barbadian residents. The Barbados Revenue Authority will, on a reciprocal basis, provide corresponding information to the foreign tax authorities on accounts held by residents of their jurisdiction in Barbados.
The CRS in Barbados is effective from 1 January 2017. However, due to a delay in finalising the logistics in order to successfully fulfil their reporting obligations, financial institutions were required to report the relevant 2018 information by 31 July 2019. As of 31 December 2017, Barbadian financial institutions must have procedures to identify accounts held by residents of any country other than Barbados and to report the required information to the Barbados Revenue Authority.
Inclusive Framework (IF) on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)
On 4 July 2017, Barbados joined the IF on BEPS, becoming the 101st jurisdiction to do so. By joining the IF, Barbados will work on creating an equal footing with all other IF members on the implementation of the BEPS package and on developing further standards to address the remaining BEPS issues. As a signatory to the IF, Barbados has committed to implementing minimum standards related to:
- preferential regimes, including exchange of tax rulings (Action 5)
- treaty abuse (Action 6)
- country-by-country (CbC) reporting to tax authorities allied to wider transfer pricing documentation in Action 13, and
- improved mutual agreement procedures (MAP) for resolving disputes (Action 14).
Further to the OECD's Harmful Tax Practices - 2018 Progress Report on Preferential Regimes, Barbados has abolished the following regimes effective 1 January 2019:
- International financial services.
- Exempt insurance.
- Qualifying insurance companies.
- International trusts.
- Credit for foreign currency earnings/credit for overseas project for services.
In addition, the shipping regime was determined to not be harmful, and all ring-fencing provisions were removed and no grandfathering was provided.
Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (Multilateral Instrument or MLI)
On 24 January 2018, Barbados signed the OECD BEPS Multilateral Convention to update the existing network of bilateral treaties and reduce opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises. The ratification instrument was deposited on December 21, 2020 and it will enter into force on April 1, 2021.
Tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs)
TIEAs provide for the exchange of information on tax matters. TIEAs with Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, South Africa, and the United States are in force. The TIEA with Colombia is awaiting ratification; and TIEAs with France and Germany have been initialled and are awaiting signature.
Bilateral investment treaties (BITs)
Barbados has entered into BITs with Canada, China, Cuba, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. BITs with Ghana and the Belgium/Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) await ratification.
BITs typically cover the following:
- Investments of every kind.
- National and most favoured nation (MFN) treatment.
- Compensation for losses owing to war, revolution, state of national emergency, revolt, riot, etc. to be no less favourable than that for residents.
- Expropriation, providing for compensation equal to market value.
- Unrestricted transfer of investments and returns.
- Settlement of disputes, either between one state and nationals or companies of the other state, or between the two states themselves.