Category Archives: Funds News

The BVI’s AEOI portal is now open for CRS filings. Are you ready?

The BVI International Tax Authority (ITA) announced yesterday that the BVI’s AEOI portal, BVI FARS, is now open for reporting under the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (known as CRS)[1]. So, what do you have to do and by when?

The ITA has published an updated user guide but, since I know that most people are already glossing over and thinking about clicking on the more interesting email about drinks plans this evening which just flashed up in the right hand corner of their screens, I will try to summarise it as briefly as possible.

We are celebrating a small triumph in the BVI by beating our Cayman friends and rivals this year (in what has to be one of the world’s most boring races) to being ready to receive FATCA[2] filings. BVI funds have been diligently registering on BVI FARS and filing their FATCA reports, which were due by 31 May 2017. If you have missed the deadline, try not to panic and get in touch.

Despite a small delay (okay, I admit, Cayman beat us on this one) BVI FARS is now ready for CRS registration and so it’s now time to take the additional step of extending your registration on BVI FARS to cover reporting and filing under CRS. You can do this by logging into the BVI FARS portal as usual and changing the reporting obligations to include CRS. Actually, this really is pretty last minute and you only have until 30 June to register, yes that’s next Friday!

CRS filings have to be made on BVI FARS by 31 July 2017. A separate filing has to be submitted for each reportable jurisdiction in which the fund has reportable accounts. As with the FATCA process, you can either submit CRS filings using the manual entry using the online web form or by uploading an XML file that complies with the CRS XML Schema v.1.0, published by the OECD.

Any reports required to be made under UKCDOT[3] (the parallel reporting system for UK accounts which came in before CRS and will fall away in 2018) must also be made this year by submitting a CRS filing with the UK as the receiving country. Some accounts which are not yet required to be reported under CRS because they are pre-existing lower value individual accounts[4] and pre-existing entity accounts[5] will need to be reported under UKCDOT because the deadlines for reviewing those accounts under UKCDOT have now passed. The maximum required to be reported under the two regimes should be reported.

Don’t be caught out by the obligation under CRS which also requires investment managers and advisers, licensed in the BVI, to register on BVI FARS. Under FATCA, they weren’t required to do this because they were classified as Non-reporting FFIs.

So what are the key dates in 2017 for BVI funds and AEOI?

30 April 2017 All BVI Reporting Financial Institutions (including all BVI funds) were required to have registered with BVI FARS for FATCA.
31 May 2017 All BVI Reporting Financial Institutions should have made their FATCA reports. We recommend filing a nil return, even if you have no US Reportable Accounts.
30 June 2017 All BVI Reporting Financial Institutions (including funds and investment managers and advisers) must register on BVI FARS for CRS.
31 July 2017 All BVI Reporting Financial Institutions must file a report or a nil return on BVI FARS for CRS.
31 December 2017 All pre-existing lower value individual accounts and pre-existing entity accounts must have been reviewed for CRS.

 What else should BVI funds have done or be doing?

Most funds and their managers have been preparing for AEOI compliance and have been taking steps to ensure that they are complying with their notification, reporting and ongoing requirements but if you are still in the dark you should be:

  • Reviewing the fund’s existing documentation to make sure AEOI obligations are properly disclosed and the fund can get all the self-certification and other documents it needs.
  • Creating and implementing AEOI policies.
  • Reviewing pre-existing accounts. Financial Institutions have been given until 31 December 2017 to review pre-existing entity accounts and pre-existing lower value individual accounts. The review of all pre-existing accounts must have been completed by 31 December 2017 and all reportable accounts must be reported in 2018.
  • Appointing an authorised person as a principal point of contact to liaise with the ITA.

If you need more information or assistance with your filings, or want to discuss any of this in person, just contact one of our blog team and we will be happy to help.

Fiona has also been blogging on what is happening with AEOI in Cayman and you can read her blog here.

 

 

[1] OECD sponsored Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement and certain bilateral agreements or tax treaties regarding the common reporting standard on automatic exchange of information.

[2] US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

[3]  The Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories International Tax Compliance Regulations

[4] Those with a value of less than US$1m.

[5] Pre-existing Entity Accounts with a value of less than US$250,000 do not need to be reviewed unless and until the balance exceeds US$250,000.

Cayman AEOI portal re-opens – get your filings ready…

Don’t all rush at once with your XML files, but the Cayman Islands Tax Information Authority (TIA) confirmed last week that its automatic exchange of information (AEOI) portal  is now open again for notification and some reporting functions. Those fund administrators who have taken on the task of processing the notification and reporting obligations for Cayman funds are now busy making sure that the funds are properly registered on the portal so that they can file the relevant reports later in the Summer under the Cayman legislation implementing US FATCA[1] and the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (or CRS[2] as everyone knows it).

So, what are the key dates in 2017 for Cayman funds and AEOI?

Early May 2017 New AEOI portal user guide for CRS/US FATCA was published here
Mid May 2017 CRS and US FATCA notification/registration function now available on AEOI portal, including variation in reporting obligation, and US FATCA XML reporting
June 2017 Updated AEOI portal user guide available with detailed CRS user guidance
Mid June 2017 CRS reporting function available on AEOI portal
30 June 2017 CRS and US FATCA notification/registration deadline for Cayman financial institutions
31 July 2017 CRS and US FATCA reporting deadline for Cayman reporting financial institutions, for the 2016 reporting year
31 July 2017 Deadline for correcting any errors for US FATCA reports for 2014 and/or 2015
31 December 2017 The review of Pre-existing Lower Value Individual Accounts and Pre-existing Entity Accounts for CRS must be completed

What else should Cayman funds have done or be doing?

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Tax Amnesty heralds increased demand for offshore funds in the Latam region

After a highly educational trip down to Buenos Aires at the end of last year, I couldn’t help but be encapsulated by everything that was going on in Argentina. It absolutely felt like a country that was finally moving in the right direction and the Tax Amnesty was a large part of that. On that basis, I took the time out to interview the head of our Montevideo Office, Horacio Woycik to gauge his views on how 2017 is playing out:

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me Horacio. I noted that on 31 March 2017, Argentina concluded one of the world’s most successful tax amnesties, something of which you must be very proud of as a native Argentinian. Could you tell our blog readers a little more?

Thanks Phil. Although the Argentina Government was cautiously optimistic when announcing the Tax Amnesty on various assets[i] a year ago, the results exceeded all expectations, with $116.8 billion assets declared in total. This is impressive, particularly compared to the $1.7 billion declared under the former government’s Tax Amnesty programme between 2013-2015.

That’s a truly incredible result. What do you put it down to?

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The Education of a Value Investor

We’re told a lot these days about why capitalism has failed us. We’re told that greedy bankers and irresponsible CEOs need to be reined in with more stringent regulations and that wealth should be more aggressively redistributed. Perhaps. But greed can also be a vehicle to something deeper and more soulful.

You would have every right in the current international political and social climate to read these words, written by a very successful investment fund manager and struggle to take them in. I know I did. I almost felt as if the author was setting up an enormous challenge for himself to beat the general stigmas that surround fund managers and certainly I prepared myself to get to the end of his book and conclude that he’d failed.

But how wrong I was.

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Brexit – the two year countdown begins

The United Kingdom served its Article 501 notice today, giving two years’ notice to leave the European Union. Managers of offshore funds, as well as everyone else here in the UK, now have more clarity on the Brexit timetable, with the UK scheduled to be out of the EU in March 2019. Much has been uncertain since the UK’s referendum in June last year, and that’s not likely to end until the final exit terms are agreed, but it’s clear that the effects of Brexit will be felt beyond the UK and Europe. Brexit negotiations are expected to be intense and politically complex (especially with French and German elections later in 2017 and Scotland’s demand for a further independence referendum before Brexit finally takes effect), with the UK’s stated aim, in its Article 50 notice, of agreeing a “deep and special partnership, taking in both economic and security co-operation” between the UK and EU post Brexit.

So what impact will Brexit have on offshore funds?

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Girls just wanna have fun(ds)

We just spent the time staring at your arse in that tight cream dress, bending over the boardroom table” was the comment from a client that completely disarmed me as a newly qualified corporate lawyer. I was at a predominantly male completion dinner with some of my colleagues and a male management team, having just worked that “arse” off completing a massive management buy-out in record time, culminating in 72 hours working with no sleep.

Fortunately, during my career, explicitly sexist comments like this have been rare.  But being in a room filled with men and finding it tough to break into the conversation or feeling like I am suffering from a language barrier (when everyone is actually speaking my native language) has been a common theme. I find it difficult to put my finger on what it is that I find challenging about these situations, particularly when I work well with my male colleagues and clients, and count many men as my close friends. On a social level, I hold my own with men and women alike. Kim Elsesser, business psychologist, calls this “the sex partition”. Forming new business and social relationships is easier with people who are similar to us and, generally, the same sex. “The communication is easier and more predictable, and it results in greater trust”. And, taking this further, breaking into groups of the opposite sex, particularly in a competitive, marketing environment, is even harder.

The Financial Times reported in November last year that, according to research examining over 26,000 funds across 56 countries, only one in five has a female portfolio manager, a figure which has not improved since the financial crisis and in 2015 women held only 10.3 percent of C-suite positions in the hedge fund industry. Research also shows that, despite the evidence that women-owned or women-managed hedge funds outperform the industry, women-run funds continue to find capital raising more difficult than their male peers. This has led to many asserting that women must work harder and perform better to achieve the same results.

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ARE INSTITUTIONAL US MANAGERS CONTINUING TO PREDOMINANTLY USE CAYMAN STRUCTURES? WHY?

Are institutional US managers continuing to predominantly use Cayman structures? Why?

The short answer is yes, but there are caveats. Many investment fund commentators were all doom and gloom for 2016. Underperformance from some of the institutional fund managers, some institutional investors pulling out of institutional funds, over-regulation in the US, cyber-security and the SEC’s treatment of managers being some of the reasons why and leading to many journalists writing headlines such as “Is this the end of the hedge fund?”

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Brexit: What does the UK Supreme Court judgment mean for offshore funds?

The Brexit rollercoaster is showing no signs of nearing the end of the ride yet following the UK Supreme Court’s judgment[1] on Tuesday this week. As has been widely reported, the Supreme Court confirmed that the UK government doesn’t have the power to give notice to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so. The government can’t simply serve notice to leave, as it had hoped and argued before the UK’s highest court, and so it now has to put draft legislation before Parliament, which it published today, to give the government the authority it needs to serve notice.

Opposition parties have already made it clear that they may try to amend the draft legislation, which, with only one section authorising the Prime Minister to serve Article 50 notice, must win the prize for being one of the shortest pieces of legislation in recent years. Although it looks unlikely they’ll de-rail Brexit itself at this stage or even delay the government’s 31 March target deadline for serving Article 50 notice, MPs could try to take Theresa May’s strategy in a different direction from the principles she set out in her speech last week or make the government involve Parliament more in the negotiations, not just give them a vote on the final deal struck.

So what does the Supreme Court judgment mean for offshore funds?

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Cap Intro West

Greetings offshorefundsblog readers. Phil and I have just returned from attending the inaugural Cap Intro West Conference in San Francisco last week. We were both honoured to be invited to speak at the conference: I joined a number of friends presenting a Private Equity and Hedge Fund Boot Camp for start up and emerging fund managers while Phil, somehow, managed to have the audience in stitches while he detailed the ins and outs of AIFMD on his panel on Navigating Fund Marketing Rules and Regulations.

As you might expect at a January conference, a lot of time was spent during the breakouts looking at the tea leaves to determine what 2017 might hold for us. I am very pleased to report that the mood was generally optimistic. Some of this may have due to the Trump administration’s intended policies to boost the US economy and some of this may have been due to the generous pours of the bar staff at the evening cocktails!

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A Cayman perspective: 2017 trends for the funds industry

2016: what a year for the Americas.  From our offices in Cayman, Sao Paulo, Montevideo and Vancouver, we witnessed a wave of fundamental – at times dramatic and turbulent – change in key markets in the Americas. From impeachment of a sitting president in Brazil, to the election of a centre-right president in Argentina to the ‘glad its over’ election in the US which ushered in centre-right control of two branches of government, 2016 brought fundamental political change across the region. Meanwhile, long-anticipated amnesty programmes in both Argentina and Brazil paved the way for large amounts of assets to be brought back into the formal economy, and away from the increasingly frigid landscapes of undeclared assets. Both programmes succeeded, perhaps even beyond expectation, as investors and common citizens embraced the welcome opportunity to regularise their positions, thus adjusting to a world where transparency and information exchange are the rule. For a jurisdiction like Cayman, this is all potentially good news. Let me explain why.

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Africa clean sweep – what now and what next?

Adding to our success at The Lawyer and HFM Awards, Harneys was privileged to win twice at the inaugural Africa Global Funds Awards held recently in Cape Town.  The Africa Global Funds Awards were created specifically to honour and generate both industry and public recognition for fund service providers focused on Africa and are the only international awards of their kind.

We were successful both in the Best Offshore Law Firm and Best Offshore Law Firm – Client Service categories, effectively giving us a clean sweep of the awards designated to offshore law firms against some well regarded and formidable competitors.  Given that I head up our Africa Practice and for the last 5 years have had a strong focus on the funds industry in Africa, these wins saved me from some awkward internal conversations and allowed me to breathe a long sigh of relief.

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Tiger Woods and the comfort of predictability

After more than 15 months in the wilderness, with goodness knows what to keep him entertained during his recovery from multiple back surgeries, Tiger finally came back to the PGA Tour this weekend and competed in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

The entire sporting world watched and waited; could he begin down the road to superstardom once again?

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BVI Segregated Portfolio Companies go from strength to strength

Segregated Portfolio Companies (SPCs) are now well recognised and widely used corporate vehicles, and we are seeing increasing demand for them in the funds context in both the BVI and Cayman Islands. An SPC benefits from statutory segregation of its assets and liabilities in one segregated portfolio from those of any other segregated portfolio, and from the general assets and liabilities of the company, but is a single, legal entity. The SPC has only one set of constitutional documents, one board of directors and, importantly, one set of annual licence fees (although additional fees are charged per segregated portfolio on establishment (and, in Cayman, annually) these supplementary fees are much lower than the fees for establishing and maintaining multiple entities).

The ability to segregate the assets and liabilities of one segregated portfolio from another makes SPCs popular for umbrella or multi-class investment funds which can operate different investment strategies and, in particular, different levels of leverage, without risking cross contamination across the segregated portfolios.

In the past, SPCs have been popular with emerging managers who may have used an SPC platform as a cost-effective way to enter the market and establish an investment fund. They would effectively “rent” a segregated portfolio of the SPC platform rather than set up a standalone legal entity. This is still the case for Cayman SPCs although it has become less attractive in the BVI since the introduction there of specific products – the incubator fund and approved fund – tailored to the emerging manager each of which offers a quick and cost-effective set-up and minimum ongoing regulatory requirements.

Regulation of SPCs

In the BVI, a company is only eligible to be an SPC if it is, or will be on incorporation, a private, professional or public fund under the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2010. In Cayman, any exempted company can be incorporated as or convert into an SPC (if it follows the conversion procedure set out in the Companies Law).

The prior approval of the BVI Financial Services Commission (FSC) is required before any BVI company may be registered or incorporated as an SPC and this is only granted where the FSC is satisfied that the applicant has, or has available to it, the knowledge and expertise necessary for the proper management of segregated portfolios. There is no equivalent approval needed for Cayman SPCs.

In both the BVI and Cayman, each segregated portfolio either has its own offering memorandum or there is a base offering memorandum for the fund and each segregated portfolio has its own portfolio supplement.

A BVI SPC is required to have an administrator, manager and custodian. As discussed in our Introduction to Cayman Fund Products blog post, a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund will need to have an administrator and manager but is not required to have a custodian but a Cayman SPC which is unregulated is not required under Cayman legislation to appoint functionaries. The same functionaries may be appointed to all of the segregated portfolios of a BVI SPC or a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund. Alternatively, each segregated portfolio may appoint its own functionaries. The documents appointing the functionaries must state clearly the segregated portfolios for which the appointment is being made.

Both a BVI  SPC and a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund are required to have an auditor, and audited financial statements must be filed with the FSC or the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (as applicable) within six months of the end of its financial year.

The future of SPCs

The use of SPCs, especially in the funds and insurance industries, has grown in recent years and the concept is now well recognised in the international financial services industry. As a consequence, we are getting more frequent enquiries about establishing SPCs and clients are seeing that the features of SPCs are useful, not only for regulated funds but also for a broad range of other uses such as closed-end, unregulated funds or employee benefit schemes. The Cayman legislation is currently more flexible than the BVI legislation and allows unregulated funds to be established as SPCs. Consequently, Cayman is currently winning this work. The BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 provides scope for greater flexibility as to the type of vehicles that are able to adopt the SPC structure, and the FSC is looking into widening the circumstances in which SPCs can be used. When it does this (and we are hopeful that this is imminent), the BVI, with its much lower establishment and annual fees, will become extremely competitive in this market.

If you are interested in setting up an SPC in the BVI or the Cayman Islands, please get in touch.

Marcum panel

On the Stump – Sao Paulo & New York

I have had the distinct honour and pleasure of being invited to speak at two excellent conferences recently.

In September I headed down to Sao Paulo to speak at the DMS 6th Annual Investment Funds Summit. I was joined on a panel by fellow Harneys partner Marco Martins, along with two representatives from Maitland and one from DMS. It was a slight concern of mine that every other panellist was fluent in Portuguese but thankfully this illiterate Englishman managed to scrape by.

DMS Panel

Phil Graham, far right, and Marco Martins, centre, of Harneys at the DMS 6th Annual Investment Funds Summit in Sao Paulo in September. No one told Phil to wear red socks, which had him a little preoccupied.

We discussed the latest trends and updates from the offshore world, with Marco touching on the new LLCs in Cayman and I was asked to talk through the incubator and approved funds. It was very interesting indeed for both of us to get a real sense of fascination in the room with not only some in-depth queries during the presentation, but also afterwards and well into the evening whilst we were enjoying our caipirinhas. Given the tax amnesty at the moment, offshore structuring remains incredibly poignant and the use of fund vehicles in particular seemed to be of real interest to budding fund managers looking to take in investments from the high net worths who are bringing their money back into Brazil and wanting to put it to good use.

My only disappointment, as you will see from the photo, is that no one provided me with the memo about wearing a pair of bright red socks. Next time.

Phil Graham and Larry Kudlow

Phil Graham and Larry Kudlow at the Marcum Alternative Investment Manager Forum

Not long after I unpacked my bags, I was getting down the suitcase again to fly up to one of our very regular stomping grounds of New York to speak at the Marcum Alternative Investment Manager Forum Dennis Schall put on a truly masterful event which included a keynote speech from Larry Kudlow which was one of the most impressive I have ever heard. A room full of rather loud elephants was hushed into silence by some unbelievably simplistic and yet incredibly brilliant economic policies that led to a standing ovation at the end. Given he acted as senior economic adviser to President-elect Trump throughout his campaign, there is potentially reason to be a little more optimistic than the outlook a number of the political commentators are currently expressing.

Whilst it was far from ideal to speak in and around such an impressive orator, it was great to help emerging managers with both the rationale behind using their service providers in the most efficient manner and then set out the various structures that can be used in our industry to maximise the manager’s goals. Dennis had put together some great panellists indeed and not only do I think we added a little bit of insight, but there was a touch of humour too as you will see demonstrated from my photo with Larry.

Boy, didn’t he look like he was just bubbling with enthusiasm to be seen standing next to the offshore guy…