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OECD Releases New Provisions for Exchange of Information Between Tax Authorities

 

23/07/2004 - The OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs has agreed on new provisions for the exchange of information between national tax authorities as part of a drive for improved co-operation to assist in the administration of domestic tax laws and international tax treaties.

The new arrangements are set out in a revised version of Article 26 of the OECD’s Model Tax Convention, which covers the exchange of information on tax matters. The provisions of Article 26 are widely accepted as providing the international standard for exchange of information between tax authorities. In its updated version, Article 26 now reflects current practices in many countries as well as an agreement between OECD countries on the ideal standard of access to bank information for tax purposes.

Bill McCloskey, Chair of the OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs, welcomed the conclusion of this work, which marks the first comprehensive revision of the Model Tax Convention’s exchange of information provisions since 1977. More than 2000 bilateral tax treaties are based on the OECD Model Tax Convention. 

In today’s globalised economy, he noted, effective information exchange is essential for countries to maintain sovereignty over the application and enforcement of their tax laws and to ensure the correct application of tax conventions. Given that an increasing number of taxpayers are engaging in cross border activity, tax authorities need an effective legal mechanism for obtaining information from their treaty partners to ensure compliance with the tax laws. While taxpayers can operate in a global world relatively unconstrained by national borders, tax authorities must respect these borders in carrying out their functions. Exchange of information provisions offer a legal framework for co-operating across borders without violating the sovereignty of other countries or the rights of taxpayers. 

“Article 26 now reflects the new international standard of information exchange in tax matters,” Mr. McCloskey said in a statement. “The vast majority of OECD member countries already meet the new standard and I am looking forward to other countries, both inside and outside the OECD, moving towards the standard of information exchange now found in Article 26.”

The key changes in Article 26 are as follows:

  • A new paragraph has been added to prevent “domestic tax interest” requirements from hindering exchange of information. A domestic tax interest requirement refers to laws or practices that would prohibit one treaty partner from obtaining or exchanging information requested by another treaty partner unless the requested treaty partner had an interest in such information for its own tax purposes. The new paragraph clarifies that Contracting States should obtain and exchange information irrespective of whether they also need the information for their own tax purposes. 
  • A new paragraph has been added to ensure that ownership information and information held by banks, financial institutions, nominees, agents and fiduciaries can be exchanged. New paragraph 5 prevents bank secrecy from being used as a basis for refusing to exchange information.
  • The confidentiality rules in Article 26 have been changed so as to permit disclosure of information to oversight authorities. This change reflects a growing trend in OECD countries. Oversight authorities are authorities that supervise tax administration and enforcement authorities as part of the general administration of the government of a Contracting State.

These and other changes made to Article 26 and its Commentary are consistent with the 2002 Model Agreement on Exchange of Information in Tax Matters, which was developed jointly with a number of non-member economies committed to the principles of transparency and effective exchange of information.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Helen Fisher, OECD's Media Relations Division (tel. 33 1 45 24 80 97).

See the  full text of the Article and Commentary  (including observations and reservations). For more information about the OECD's work in this area, go to www.oecd.org/ctp/eoi

 

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