Last week the Florida Representative Office of Victoria mutual Building Society (VMBS) held two community fora for the Jamaican Diaspora, under the theme, "Our Journey.....Jamaica Next 50." The aim of the fora, chaired by manager of the local representative office, Suzette Rochester, was to inform the Diaspora of the socio-economic developments in their homeland.
Key speakers Jamaica's Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting, spoke on "Jamaica's Strategic Crime Management," while CPA and senior partner, Mullings, Crighton & Associates, Leary Mullings addressed the implications of the controversial U.S. tax initiative, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), under the theme "Understanding FATCA and the IRS Reporting Standards."
The company views the issue of crime in Jamaica as crucial and is concerned that it could be a deterrent to Jamaicans and other persons wanting to invest in Jamaica.
Bunting outlined initiatives being undertaken by the Jamaican government to combat crime and violence.
He stated that since year 2009/2010, Jamaica's murder rate fell from 62 to 42 per 100,000, and the government is targeting to reduce that murder rate to 12 per 100,000 by 2016.
He said the ministry has drafted a new national security policy to ensure the society's safety, and measures are being implemented to strengthen its capacity to deal with crime through infrastructure development, public and private sector partnerships, rehabilitation and reintegration of deportees, collaborative programs with international law enforcement, prevention mechanisms and social intervention.
Mullings explained FATCA as an important development in efforts to improve tax compliance involving foreign financial assets and offshore accounts. Under FATCA, U.S. persons, (permanent residents and citizens), with foreign financial assets of specific value must report those assets to the IRS.
FATCA will require foreign financial institutions, like VMBS, to report information directly to the IRS about accounts exceeding an aggregate of US$50,000, held by U.S. persons, or by foreign entities in which U.S. taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.
He explained specified foreign financial assets related to FATCA including any of the following that exceeds certain amounts during the year or at the end of the year:
• Any financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution, or
• Other foreign financial assets held for investment that are not in an account maintained by a U.S. or foreign financial institution, namely:
- Stock or securities issued by someone other than a U.S. person,
- Any interest in a foreign entity and
- Any financial instrument or contract that has as an issuer or counterpart that is other than a U.S. person.
Mullings urged Jamaicans who are residents/citizens of the U.S., that while they are entitled to the rights, accessibility and goodwill, wherever they reside and work, to take steps to be informed of the U.S. tax system.
VMBS will be trying to comply with the requirements under FATCA, and the company is undertaking assessments of its systems and operations and designing action plans to implement the requisite changes to facilitate compliance.
President/CEO of VMBS, Richard Powell spoke of developments to improve client services in Jamaica and through the international network of 15 branch offices across the Diaspora. He said the company's information hub - www.vmbs.com – has been improved to make it more customer-friendly, useful and interactive, and an online banking facility, VM Express Online, will be introduced shortly to allow members and customers to use all aspects of personal accounting.