Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, G20 Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors Meeting, Session 6 & Working Lunch – Tax
Sydney, 23 February, 2014
(As prepared for delivery)
Mr. Chair [Treasurer Hockey], Ministers, Governors, Colleagues
I am pleased to report to you on G20 progress in the tax field.
First, on Automatic Exchange of Information.
Building on the very ambitious progress you all made in adopting the OECD standard of exchange of tax information on request and in response to our Leaders’ call, I am happy to present you with the new single global standard for automatic exchange of information.
The deadlines you fixed were short but I am glad to deliver on time a very ambitious standard: all financial account information (from bank account balances to all forms of investment income) will now be collected and exchanged. The standard is robust and will not allow for tax planning: beneficial owners will be identified whether they hold bank accounts directly or through intermediary structures like companies or trusts. As a result, a strong message is sent to evaders: there will be no place to hide and the era of excessive bank secrecy is gone.
We have also been very mindful of limiting the costs for businesses, governments and taxpayers. The standard I am presenting to you is a single global standard: it is compatible with FATCA and EU rules, meaning that financial institutions will not have to duplicate their efforts to comply, saving them a lot of resources. It also builds on existing mechanisms like anti-money laundering rules in effect today.
In September, I will come back to you with complements to the standard, in particular guidance on its implementation and the associated IT architecture to be put in place. This will also be developed in consultation with all stakeholders, in particular the financial institutions, to make it cost effective.
The OECD, working with all G20 countries, has delivered the standard. We now need all financial centres to commit to it and look forward to working with you to achieve this before the Leaders meet in Brisbane.We will also assist you in translating all this in your domestic legislation to make it real and effective as swiftly as possible.
Let me now turn to BEPS
It is exactly (and only!) one year since you discussed the OECD Report on Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and less than 6 months since you approved the BEPS Action Plan in September last year. I am glad to report the tremendous progress made since then, with the establishment of the G20/OECD BEPS Project, which involves all G20 countries on an equal footing in our Committee of Fiscal Affairs and its working groups.
Discussions are advancing in accordance with the schedule We have already made significant progress in some key areas:
- Transfer pricing rules will be adapted to put an end to the divorce between the location of the profit and the location of real activities, in particular for intangible property.
- A draft template for country by country reporting is already out for comments from interested stakeholders.
- We are making good progress in developing a model legislation to neutralize hybrid mismatches so costly to your budgets.
- We have also reinvigorated the work on harmful tax practices.
- Last, but not least, we are working hard to identify the challenges of the digital economy and, in September, we will be in a position to propose a menu of actions to be taken.
But we are not naïve: we are dealing with highly sensitive issues where national positions need to converge. It is no secret that countries have different views on some key technical issues, such as in the area of the digital economy, transfer pricing, or on when a preferential regime should be considered harmful. But we cannot afford that these differences in opinions prevent us from achieving the over-arching and common goal of closing the loopholes and eliminating double non-taxation.
We also need to keep in mind that there are high expectations about this work from citizens, NGO’s, businesses, and certainly, some skepticism out there on our ability to reach consensus. So we need to keep the effort, fight conservatism and also compromise to make sure the renovated rules work properly.
Be assured that we work closely with all stakeholders and have put in place a number of mechanisms to ensure full transparency in the process with a large number of public consultations. We are also ensuring that the views of developing countries are taken on board and have organised three high-level regional consultations in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
As for business, it is coming to understand that BEPS is not an anti-business project but rather a pro-fairness one, but we still need to continue the dialogue with companies and their representatives.
In this context, your strong leadership and drive for shared solutions, as well as your commitment to reach consensus, are needed. The success of the BEPS project will depend on your continued support.