The Global Forum currently has 158 members all participating on an equal footing. This includes all G20 and OECD countries, all major international financial centres and a vast number of developing countries, which today represent more than half of Global Forum members. The Global Forum also has 15 international organisations participating as observers.
The Global Forum has a self-standing dedicated Secretariat, based in the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, in Paris, France. The Head of the Global Forum Secretariat is Ms Zayda Manatta from Brazil.
As its membership has expanded, the Secretariat has also expanded and currently includes around 40 members of staff from around 20 member jurisdictions that speak over 10 languages. They come from a variety of backgrounds including from national finance ministries, tax administrations, legal and advisory firms and academia.
The Global Forum plenary (i.e. including all of its members) is the sole decision-making body of the Global Forum. The Chair of the Global Forum is Spain (Mrs Maria José Garde). In order to facilitate its work, the Global Forum has established three subsidiary groups focusing on different aspects of the Global Forum’s work, all of which report back to the Global Forum including with any proposals for adoption by the Global Forum.
The Steering Group prepares and guides the future work of the Global Forum. The Steering Group is composed of the Chair (Spain, Mrs Maria José Garde, Chair) and the Vice-Chairs of the Global Forum (Barbados, Italy and Japan), along with 15 other members. The Steering Group also includes the Chair of the Peer Review Group (Mrs. Huey Min Chia-Tern from Singapore) and the Chair of the AEOI Group (Mr David Pitaro from Italy).
The Peer Review Group (PRG) overseas the Global Forum’s peer reviews in relation to the EOIR Standard. It consists of 30 members of the Global Forum. The PRG is currently chaired by Singapore (Mrs. Huey Min Chia-Tern), assisted by four Vice-Chairs (the Cayman Islands, India, the United Kingdom and the United States). The PRG meets three to four times a year, discusses and approves the peer review reports and proposals on other matters related to the review of the EOIR Standard, which are then submitted for adoption by the Global Forum.
The Automatic Exchange of Information Working Group (the AEOI Group) was established to take forward the Global Forum’s work on AEOI. This included promoting and monitoring its implementation, assessing key aspects to the implementation of the standard and helping developing countries to benefit from it. It is chaired by Italy (David Pitaro). It is an open group and its membership currently comprises more than 85 jurisdictions and two observers. The AEOI Group holds three or four meetings a year and reports to the Global Forum. Its mandate is due to expire at the end of 2018 and the Global Forum is currently considering the most appropriate organisational structure to take forward its future work on AEOI.
As the world has become increasingly globalised it has also become increasingly straightforward for taxpayers to move their financial activities across the world. While this has brought great benefits, it has also provided the opportunity for taxpayers to look to hide their financial affairs from tax authorities in order to evade tax. While estimates vary, not least due to the inherent difficulties in calculating it, the amount of hidden wealth across the world is thought to be highly significant. This not only reduces the revenues available to provide necessary public services, but also risks undermining the public’s confidence in the tax system and globalisation itself, and damages the reputation of international financial centres. A multilateral response that ensures much closer linkages and working practices between tax authorities across the world provides for an effective response to address these risks, ensuring that tax authorities can, in effect, see across borders to ensure that all taxpayers pay the tax that is due.
The Global Forum provides a multilateral response to the need to tackle offshore tax evasion. It brings together around 160 jurisdictions dedicated to improving transparency and the exchange of information for tax purposes. It does this through promoting and ensuring the effective implementation of two complementary international standards, both of which provide for closer co-operation between tax authorities worldwide so that they can obtain information necessary to ensure tax compliance, such as on cross-border investments.
The Global Forum monitors the worldwide implementation of these standards and conducts peer reviews to ensure the standards are implemented effectively. It also provides for a forum for its members to discuss these issues and delivers technical assistance to its members to support them in implementing the standards.
The around 160 member jurisdictions of the Global Forum all operate on an equal footing in setting the Global Forum’s priorities and devising and implementing its work plan. It is supported by a self-standing Secretariat hosted at the OECD. At its core the Global Forum is a peer review body whereby members review the effectiveness if each other’s implementation of the international standards on transparency and the exchange of information for tax purposes. Where issues are identified then recommendations are made to address them. Member jurisdictions also make additional financial and other contributions to support the Global Forum’s technical assistance programme to train Global Forum members in the application of the Global Forum’s standards and to provide intensive and bespoke assistive to ensure that developing countries can fully benefit from the standards. The Global Forum also has several international organisations as observers to ensure international coherence in the international community’s approach to tackling offshore tax evasion and works very closely with many of them on a day-to-day basis to coordinate the provision of support to developing countries.
The Standard for Exchange of Information on Request (EOIR) has been in operation for many years and all Global Forum members are committed to its implementation. The Global Forum completed a first round of peer reviews in this regard between 2010 and 2016. This involved a detailed examination of the legal frameworks in place in each jurisdiction as well as the implementation of the standard in practice. Overall ratings were subsequently assigned to 116 jurisdictions. The Global Forum then strengthened its approach to reviewing the implementation of the EOIR standard, including by requiring the availability of information on who the beneficial owner of assets are. It commenced a second round of peer reviews in July 2016. Over 50 peer review reports have so far been published during the second round of peer reviews. The results so far show that a huge amount of progress has been achieved to ensure the effective implementation of the EOIR Standard worldwide, although there is still more to do.
The Standard for Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) was developed in 2014. All Global Forum members were asked to commit to exchange information under the AEOI Standard by 2017 or 2018, aside from developing countries that do not host a financial centre, given their capacity constraints and lower risk to the level playing field. Over 100 jurisdictions have now committed its implementation and the vast majority have commenced exchanges. The Global Forum has reviewed each jurisdiction’s domestic and international legal frameworks to ensure their completeness with the next step being conducting reviews in relation to the effectiveness of each jurisdiction’s implementation of the AEOI Standard in practice.
The Global Forum also conducts dedicated reviews in relation to the confidentiality and data safeguard standards put in place by jurisdictions conducting AEOI, with a particular focus on the associated policies and systems. All those carrying out AEOI have already been reviewed pre-exchanges and a programme of post-exchange reviews is also being carried out.
Meanwhile, extensive technical assistance has been provided on all aspects of the Global Forum’s work. This includes induction programmes and other training to educate Global Forum members on the Global Forum’s standards and intensive a targeted assistance to ensure developing countries, which now make up a majority of the Global Forum’s membership, can fully benefit from them.
The Global Forum will continue its programme of peer reviews to ensure the international standards on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes are implemented effectively worldwide. This includes the continuation of its second round of reviews in relation to EOIR, which places a particular focus on ensuring the availability of information on the beneficial ownership of assets, and the analysis of the annual follow-up self-assessment reports to track progress. All jurisdictions implementing AEOI will also be reviewed on the effectiveness of their implementation of the standard in practice. This includes a focus on whether jurisdictions are ensuring that financial institutions are reporting complete and accurate information to exchange. The Global Forum will also continue its focus on confidentiality and data safeguards by reviewing all jurisdictions conducting AEOI, including a particular focus on the policies and systems being used for exchange.
Supporting jurisdictions and providing assistance will continue to be a key priority for the Global Forum, not least because the majority of its members are now developing countries. This will include providing a forum for members to form closer partnerships and share best practices, providing training and materials on how to implement the Global Forum’s standards and providing in depth and intensive assistance to developing countries to ensure they fully benefit.