Global tax forum urges more transparency

By added on 01/10/2010

A forum set up to tackle tax fraud and bank secrecy, blamed in part for the global financial meltdown, said countries were taking their commitments seriously but urged greater transparency, AFP reports.

The forum, giving its initial report card on eight countries, highlighted the need to maintain good accounting records, but voiced concern at the difficulty in securing information on nominees and trusts.

Around 200 delegates to the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes took part in two days of talks in Singapore, an Asian banking centre that has vowed to tackle cross-border tax cheats.

"There clearly is an issue... about the availability of ownership information, in particular, in the case of trusts, in the case of nominees," said Pascal Saint-Amans, who heads the secretariat for the meeting.

"Is the information on the person hiding behind the nominee available? Not always and that's a source of concern," said Saint-Amans, who is in charge of tax supervision for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the OECD is leading a drive for transparency and accountability to ensure that huge sums of money cannot be moved around the world without record or checks.

Delegates at the closed-door meeting which ended Thursday endorsed the first phase of a peer review process on eight jurisdictions, namely Bermuda, Botswana, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, India, Monaco, Panama and Qatar.

The review examined the legal and regulatory frameworks in place to ensure transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, and a second will be carried out later to study their actual implementation.

Botswana and Panama were the only two jurisdictions among the eight judged ineligible to move to the second review until they complete the requirements in the first phase, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

"These reports show that this is not just a numbers game, it is about having in place a legal and regulatory framework which enables an effective exchange of information."

Jeffrey Owens, director at the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD which sponsors the forum, said the meeting also discussed how developing countries can benefit from the tax exchange information regime.

He said the OECD will work with developing countries on how they can protect the confidentiality of tax information provided and ensure that they are used solely to ferret out tax cheats from their countries.