20/03/2009 - In today’s difficult economic environment, growing political attention is being brought to bear on the issue of tax co-operation. G-20 Heads of States and Government, at their Washington Summit on 15 November 2008, identified the need, on the basis of work carried out by the OECD, to vigorously address the issues of lack of transparency and lack of exchange of information.
Over many years, the OECD has acquired extensive expertise not only on tax conventions, but also on issues related to tax cooperation. Principles developed at the OECD with regard to the exchange of information for tax purposes were adopted by G-20 Ministers of Finance at a meeting in Berlin in 2004 and by the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters in October 2008.
They serve as a model for most of the bilateral tax conventions entered into by OECD and non-OECD countries and may be considered the international standard for tax co-operation.
Because of this expertise, and following the G20 Washington Summit Action Plan, the OECD was asked to draw up a paper setting out the current situation with regard to international tax cooperation. Accordingly, the Secretariat prepared a summary of information already contained in various reports published by the Organisation as well as in working papers that had been discussed in various subsidiary bodies of the OECD Council.
Among other things, these documents refer to a threshold of 12 agreements signed in accordance with the standard as a good indicator for assessing progress made in applying the standard. The documents were circulated to all 84 jurisdictions participating in the OECD Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information.
The summary of information supplied is factual in nature and implies no judgement on the part of the OECD. In particular, the number of international agreements that conform to the standard on the exchange of information on tax matters is public information. Several jurisdictions do not have a single agreement that complies with the standard.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría kept relevant OECD member countries informed - including at ministerial and presidential levels - about the nature of the G20 request and shared with them the documentation that was provided.
In all his conversations, he called attention to the fact that far-reaching and rapid changes were taking place in the political environment which warranted a swift response.
Against this background, the commitments announced in recent days can only be welcomed. The OECD Secretariat will be supporting and monitoring their proper implementation.
=> For more information visit the OECD site on Tax Evasion.