2016 December: In October 2015 the Cook Islands signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (“MCAA”). The MCAA sets out the OECD’s common reporting standard (“CRS”) to be followed by participating jurisdictions in regards to the automatic exchange of financial information (“AEOI”). Signing the MCAA was a commitment by the Cook Islands to include the CRS in its local laws and to commence the AEOI by 2018.
In accordance with that commitment, the Income Tax (Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2016, (“Act”) was passed on 26 September 2016, and is now followed by the Income Tax Act (Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information) Regulations 2016 (“Regulations”) which came into force on 29 November 2016. The Act has incorporated the CRS into Cook Islands domestic laws. The Regulations set out the due diligence and reporting obligations on Cook Islands financial institutions to ensure compliance with the CRS.
In October this year the Cook Islands signed the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters. The Convention is the most powerful and comprehensive multilateral instrument available for all forms of tax co-operation including automatic exchange of information.
These recent events demonstrate unequivocally that the Cook Islands supports and remains committed to the global movement to transparency and combatting tax evasion.