Peer reviews of EOIR have been the Global Forum’s main activity since 2009. These are carried out by the Peer Review Group. In preparation for a new round of reviews starting in 2016, the Peer Review Group is also well advanced in the important process of revising the principles on which the peer reviews are based to ensure that these reflect the latest developments in international transparency.
The peer review process evaluates jurisdictions’ compliance with the international standard of transparency and exchange of information on request. After completion of both Phases of the review process, each jurisdiction receives an overall rating.
The international standard against which jurisdictions are assessed provides for exchange on request of foreseeably relevant information for carrying out the provisions of a tax convention or for the administration or enforcement of the domestic tax laws of a requesting party.
The Global Forum Terms of Reference break down the standard in ten essential elements, divided into three main parts: A – availability of information, B – access to information, C – exchange of information. For the exchange of information to be effective, each jurisdiction should have appropriate international EOI instruments in place with all relevant partners, but it must also make sure that the information sought is available and accessible to its competent authority. Information which is not available or cannot be accessed cannot be exchanged. However, even if a jurisdiction never exchanges information, implementing the Global Forum’s standards on availability of and access to information is key to ensuring that it can protect its domestic tax base.
In accordance with the peer review Methodology, reviews take place in two phases: Phase 1 reviews examine the legal and regulatory framework; Phase 2 reviews look into the implementation of this framework in practice. Certain jurisdictions have undergone combined reviews, which evaluate together the Phase 1 and Phase 2 aspects. All members of the Global Forum, as well as jurisdictions identified by the Global Forum as relevant to its work, are reviewed in the order established by the Schedule of Reviews. To date almost all members have completed their Phase 1 reviews and the majority have undergone Phase 2 or combined reviews.
The reviews are driven by peers. During the reviews, all members of the Global Forum are invited to provide inputs regarding their EOI experience with the assessed jurisdiction. The assessment teams – which usually consist of two expert assessors from Global Forum member jurisdictions along with an administrator from the Secretariat – take into consideration the inputs received.
The Global Forum will start a second round of peer reviews from July 2016 under strengthened Terms of Reference. These include a strengthened standard on the availability of beneficial ownership information - as set out by the FATF standard - as well as its access by the tax authorities. Previously, the Global Forum standard only required the availability of legal ownership and identity information of legal entities and arrangements. This new requirement will strengthen the fight against anonymous shell companies and the use of legal arrangements to conceal ownership identity.
The output of the review is a report. The draft peer review reports are discussed and approved by the Peer Review Group, and are finally adopted by all Global Forum members. Where areas of weakness are identified during reviews, the reports include recommendations setting out clearly what improvements jurisdictions need to make. Where a jurisdiction does not have in place elements which are crucial to it achieving effective EOIR, the jurisdiction will not move to a Phase 2 review until it has acted on the recommendations made.
The Global Forum’s peer reviews have had a substantial impact on the implementation of the international standards around the world which you can see in this document (PDF).
A special Fast-Track review procedure was approved at the 2016 Georgia plenary meeting. This procedure is being implemented in order to respond to the communiqué from the G20 finance ministers meeting in April 2016, requesting that all jurisdictions have upgraded their rating to a ‘satisfactory’ level by the July 2017 G20 leaders summit . Please find more information here: Fast-Track procedure. If you feel that this procedure is relevant to your jurisdiction, please contact the Secretariat for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.