The OECD’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information has issued its [Tax Co-operation 2009: Towards a Level Playing Field – 2009 Assessment](http://www.oecd.org/document/23/0,3343,en_2649_33767_43555607_1_1_1_1,00.html), the fourth such analysis.
The report outlines the progress being made towards greater transparency and information exchange in the area of taxation, covering 87 jurisdictions and including the major financial centres around the world.
In a release today, the OECD said since it was established in 2000, the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information – including both OECD and non-OECD economies -has worked to improve transparency and establish effective exchange of information. The OECD maintains that the publication of the assessment this year comes at a time of heightened concern about tax evasion, with governments increasingly focused on providing effective cooperation in international tax matters.
The annual assessment is considered the only comprehensive and objective compilation of such information and, as such, is viewed as a vital tool in measuring the ability of countries to provide international co-operation in tax matters. A new feature of this year’s report is the presentation of summary assessments for each jurisdiction, providing a snapshot of their legal and administrative framework.
The OECD provided a summary of the progress made up to 31 July 2009 as follows:-
• All OECD countries now accept Article 26 (Exchange of Information) of the OECD Model Tax Convention, as updated in 2005, following the withdrawal in March 2009 by Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland of their reservations to Article 26.
• Hong Kong, China and Macao, China endorsed the standards at the 2005 Global Forum meeting in Melbourne and have now put forward legislation to enable them to implement the standards.
• Singapore endorsed the standards on 10 February 2009 and proposed relevant legislation in June 2009 intended to comply with the internationally agreed tax standard.
• More than 75 tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) based on the Global Forum’s model have been signed since the beginning of 2008.
• Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco – identified by the OECD in 2002 as un-cooperative tax havens – have endorsed the OECD standards and indicated their willingness to change their domestic legislation and to enter into agreements for the exchange of information for tax purposes.
• Niue, which was identified as a tax haven by the OECD in 2000, reports that it has now eliminated its offshore sector and dissolved all of its international business companies, trusts, partnerships or other offshore entities.
• Brunei, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Malaysia, the Philippines and Uruguay have all endorsed the OECD’s standards of transparency and exchange of information and agreed to implement them.
These developments mean that all countries surveyed by the Global Forum are now committed to the standard.
Most importantly the report shows that many other significant developments are underway as countries work to implement the OECD standards. In particular, virtually all countries are moving to eliminate strict bank secrecy for tax purposes. Commenting on these developments, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD said: “What has happened is nothing less than a revolution. For decades it has been possible for taxpayers to hide income and assets from the taxman by abusing bank secrecy and other impediments to information exchange. What these developments show is that this will no longer be possible.”
Since 31st July (when the report was finalised) jurisdictions have continued to make substantial progress:
• Belgium, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg have now signed more than 12 agreements that meet the OECD standard and are considered to have substantially implemented the OECD standard for exchange of information.
• Switzerland has now signed agreements with 4 OECD countries that provide for exchange of information to the OECD standard and has initialed agreements with at least 8 other OECD countries.
• Singapore has signed 5 agreements that meet the standard and initialed a number of others. It has also introduced legislation intended to conform its existing treaty network to international standards.
• Macao, China has passed legislation intended to enable it to implement the internationally agreed tax standard.
• Austria has signed 2 agreements that meet the OECD standard and has initialed a number of others. Moreover, Austria expects to introduce legislation to its Parliament shortly to allow it to obtain access to bank information for exchange purposes.
• The OECD’s multilateral TIEA negotiation pilot projects have produced concrete results, with jurisdictions in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands having concluded negotiations on dozens of TIEAs, some of which have already been signed and others initialed.
The Global Forum hosts its 5th meeting in Mexico, on 1-2 September, and the report is being published in conjunction with that event. The OECD says central to the Global Forum’s discussions will be plans for establishing a robust peer review mechanism designed to ensure full implementation of international standards which have now been globally endorsed.