Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
Cannes, 4th November 2011
(As prepared for delivery)
Thank you Mr. President.
Yesterday, we discussed the current economic situation. Countries are going through challenging times and are facing very different policy requirements. However, none of them can afford to disregard additional fiscal revenues. This increases the importance of tax initiatives in the G20.
The fight against tax havens is paying off. Over the past two years, and despite initial scepticism, the veil of bank secrecy has been pierced. 700 agreements have been signed as of today. The Global Forum on Tax Transparency – put in place by the OECD in response to the G20 call at the London Summit - is an instrument of irreversible change towards a more transparent tax environment that is now delivering 59 reviews. This initiative now counts 105 countries and constitutes the biggest and most effective peer review process in the world.
The OECD has estimated that almost 14 billion Euros of tax revenues have been collected from over 100 000 wealthy tax payers in about 20 countries who decided that it was now too risky to keep their undeclared assets offshore. And we expect much more as the exchange agreements come into force.
But there is more to tax compliance than additional fiscal revenues. Better tax compliance improve the fairness and effectiveness of our tax systems. We need to show our citizens that the tax burden is fairly shared and that those who use the 800 000 shell companies in the British Virgin Islands are being held to account.
President Sarkozy’s leadership in this area shows what can be achieved when the G20 speaks with one voice. But we cannot be complacent in our fight against havens. The battle is not over. Much more needs to be done. Your signing, today, of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which is another relevant OECD initiative, shows that you are prepared to take the next steps and to move from bilateral to multilateral actions, and from exchange of information on request to automatic exchange.
This is also an important element of the G20 Development agenda and the mobilization of domestic resources in developing countries.
I already talked about fairness in taxation. But fairness in the realm of consumer financial services is equally important. Remember this is how the financial crisis started in 2007 with the subprime credits. You have achieved much progress in this agenda, and today you will endorse the Principles on financial consumer protection that were developed by the OECD at the request of the French Presidency. This is part and parcel of a comprehensive reform of the international financial architecture that should include financial inclusion, protection and education.