Vexed Bermoothes

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DC After Our Shorts?

June 28th, 2010 · No Comments · Business

Dr. Brown is hot on establishing tighter relations with Washington DC, even establishing a local office to keep an ear to the ground.

Sooooo, presumably Government is up to speed on the following proposal, which is being floated by DC City Council Council chairman Vincent Gray and others.

Namely, they propose that the US Congress help turn DC into an insurance centre:

Currently, about $60 billion of American insurance companies’ reserves for natural disasters is sitting in banks in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands— in the United States, federal law holds that it must be taxed as income, so companies save a bundle by keeping it offshore (and meanwhile, Bermuda has pretty near the highest per capita GDP in the world). If Congress created similar tax conditions for insurance companies in the District, some of those funds would certainly come here, creating a significant number of new jobs.

A proponet of the idea says:

The idea should gain traction in Congress because lawmakers are starting to worry about hurricane season—and the fact that all of America’s insurance reserves are sitting in another country not subject to U.S. regulation. The District is a perfect place to relocate them, since Congress could only create such favorable tax conditions in a jurisdiction where it has total oversight. (In the 1970s, the Feds did a similar favor for Puerto Rico, making the protectorate a tax haven for pharmaceutical companies.)

This is a new threat to Bermuda – and it certainly shows some original thinking from a local government.

The odds of this effort succeeding are slim – both through being accepted by Congress or being broadly attractive to the insurance community.  However, it is more murk in the water in which Bermuda swims and underlines the importance of our Government working positively with our international customers to ensure their needs are met and that they “feel the love”.

More after the jump.

A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE U.S. TAX CODE TO EXCLUDE FROM TAXABLE INCOME CATASTROPHE RESERVES
MAINTAINED BY INSURANCE COMPANIES DOMICILED IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Summary of Proposal:

It is proposed that Congress amend the U.S. tax code to exempt from federal taxation money that is set aside in designated “catastrophe reserve funds” by qualified insurance companies located in the District of Columbia.  A “qualified insurer” would be any insurance company that is domiciled in D.C. and meets the standards for doing business as an insurer in that jurisdiction.
The proposal would allow the U.S. to compete with off-shore jurisdictions to keep insurance company catastrophe reserves in the U.S., by providing tax incentives for such funds to be maintained  in the District of Columbia, where Congress has exclusive legislative authority.  These reserves will provide additional economic security for U.S. jurisdictions that are subject to natural catastrophes, as well as providing revenue and jobs to the District of Columbia and the surrounding region.

Details of the proposed legislation

•    Qualified insurers would be entitled to (i) a deduction for contributions to catastrophic loss reserves, and (ii) an exemption from gross income for income, gain, and other investment earnings on catastrophic reserve funds.  Qualified insurers could engage in any lawful and authorized insurance business and would otherwise be subject to the same Federal income tax as other domestic property and casualty insurance companies.  That is, after the deduction for contributions to their catastrophic reserves, they would be taxable on their investment earnings other than investment earnings on catastrophic reserve funds.

•    Qualified insurers could underwrite all lines of property and casualty risks, either directly or indirectly through reinsurance.  The proposed Federal tax benefits to qualified insurers, however, would apply only to contributions to catastrophic reserves and the investment earnings on those reserves.

•    Eligible catastrophes would include windstorms (hurricanes and tornados), earthquakes, fire, floods, and other named perils.  The bill might also be written to include terrorism risks that are not covered by TRIA.

•    The proposal would create a backstop of private, insurance company funds held in reserve against future natural catastrophic losses, instead of putting the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for potentially vast sums through some kind of Federal Government backstop as was done with terrorism risk through the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.  Since little of this money is currently taxable, because it is held in non-U.S. jurisdictions where it is not taxed, the loss to the U.S. Treasury of allowing the funds to be kept tax free in the District of Columbia would be negligible.

•    Congress has direct legislative authority over the District of Columbia.  The proposal would avoid the need to deal with the separate laws and authority of state insurance regulators.  It would also provide the District of Columbia with a source of earned revenue, through jobs and local taxes, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for a federal payment to make up for the District’s constricted tax base due to its limited land area and inability to tax the Federal Government, international activities and the earnings of non-residents.

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