OECD progress report on tax havens published

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report on Tuesday on the progress of its efforts to establish global tax transparency and the effective exchange of information.

Since the G20 summit in April 2009 nearly 300 Tax Information Exchange or Double Taxation Agreements have been signed, the OECD said in a release.

Of the more than 40 offshore financial centres that were identified by the OECD in 2000 only five have not signed any agreements at all, the progress report showed.

  • The Cayman Islands has signed 13 agreements and is in the process of negotiating additional agreements with a number of countries including most recently Japan.
  • Asked whether there was still room for tax evaders to move funds to havens that have not yet subscribed to information exchange standards the Head of the OECD’s Tax Centre Jeffrey Owens said on OECD TV:
  • “Clearly that is a problem and we have said right from the outset that this has to be a global solution. It has to involve all the financial centres, inside the OECD, outside the OECD, offshore, onshore, big and small. “At the end of the day there will be no places where tax evaders can hide their money,” he said.
  • After the signing of more than 300 information exchange agreements the focus of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information is now shifting to achieving the effective implementation of the standards.

“What we now need to do is to get an effective and global implementation of the agreements,” Mr Owens said. “That is why we are now focusing on peer reviews that will be undertaken by all of the 100 countries that are covered by the Global Forum and which eventually will lead to conclusions of whether or not in practice the standards of transparency, the standards of exchanging information are being consistently, fairly and effectively implemented,” he explained.

The Cayman Islands is a member of both the Global Forum’s Steering Group and the Peer Review Group charged with the development of a methodology and detailed terms of reference for the peer review process.

In a press briefing Mr Owens and the head of the Global Forum Secretariat Pascal Saint-Amans outlined the OECD’s and the Global Forum’s next steps, including the timing of peer reviews and “the role of developing countries in the fight against tax havens”.

Mr Owens estimates that peer review process will be started in March of this year. The first stage of implementing the legislative framework can probably be completed within 18 months, he stated.

The second phase of the review, which is the actual monitoring of the practical application, will take longer.

“Our goal is to have reviewed by 2014 all of the countries and financial centres,’ Mr Owens said.

The issue will be followed up by the organisation in a series of meetings. On 25 January the OECD will launch its Fiscal Initiative for Latin America. On 26 and 27 January the OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs is going to review the progress of the project and on 28 January the Global Forum on Development will debate how developing countries can benefit from tax transparency.