Monday, April 16, 2012

Barclays has more Cayman Island links than RBS and Lloyds combined

Opacity for banks is not limited to structured products and their financial disclosure practices, but also extends to how they manage their taxes.

A Telegraph article looks at how Barclays manages its taxes.

Barclays has more than twice as many subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands than high street banking rivals Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland put together, recent corporate filings show. 
Last year, after coming under pressure from politicians about its use of tax havens, Barclays committed to closing down "a significant number of Cayman companies during 2011". 
Filings made alongside its annual report show that it is in the process of liquidating 49 of those 181 Cayman subsidiaries, which would leave it with 132. 
However, even at the reduced level, Barclays will be a prolific user of Cayman companies. By comparison, RBS operates just 37 Cayman companies and Lloyds has 24.
Barclays' tax affairs have been under intense scrutiny since Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary forced Barclays to reveal in January last year that it paid just £113m of UK corporate tax in 2009, a year in which it paid £3.4bn in bonuses, and operated more than 300 subsidiaries in tax havens around the world....
The event was particularly awkward for Barclays because it has signed the Banking Code of Practice on Taxation, which encourages lenders to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law. It also followed a pledge made last year by chief executive Bob Diamond for Barclays, and all banks, to win back public trust by becoming "better citizens". 
Analysts have warned Barclays that its brand risks being "tarnished" by the persistent use of "complicated financial structures", including clever tax avoidance schemes, to boost profits. Bruce Packard at Seymour Pierce said the bank risked a "fierce customer backlash" if it did not reform.
In recent years, Barclays has stockpiled billions of pounds of "losses" to reduce future tax bills. While there is nothing unusual about having "deferred tax assets", Barclays has almost as many as RBS and Lloyds despite not having reported a loss at group level for over a decade. RBS and Lloyds made multi-billion pound losses in the financial crisis. 
In 2010, Barclays generated £591m of "deferred tax assets" by making about £2bn of losses in subsidiaries in the UK, US and Spain, despite reporting £6bn of pre-tax profits at group level.
Accountants explained that the losses would have been generated within subsidiaries but offset by profits made elsewhere in the group. 
Corporate filings show Barclays cut its subsidiaries by about 300 in 2011, from 1,610 to 1,329. RBS also operates about 1,300 subsidiaries across the world. Barclays declined to comment on why it still needed so many in the Caymans.

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