The effective implementation of international standards requiring jurisdictions to exchange information for tax purposes is a reality that would have been mere utopia fifteen years ago. While progress in tax transparency has been massive in terms of impact and revenue, international co-operation continues to broaden the scope of these standards. Work by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (Global Forum) is ongoing to ensure the global playing field and the benefits of tax transparency for all jurisdictions.
Political momentum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes slowly rose at the end of the 1990s . Following the subprime crisis of 2007 and the financial scandals that followed, the G20 mandated a restructured Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (Global Forum) in April 2009 to ensure the effective exchange of information (EOI) for tax purposes between jurisdictions.
Close to fifteen years later, the international tax cooperation landscape has been totally transformed with two EOI standards fully implemented, and the Crypto-Asset Reporting Framework (CARF) at the early stage of implementation. The EOI implementation has been truly global, and ensures that the level playing field is respected. While fifteen years ago, exchange of banking account information was impossible for many jurisdictions around the globe due to strict banking secrecy, information on over 123 million financial accounts was exchanged automatically in 2022, covering total assets of almost EUR 12 trillion. This sole example illustrates the magnitude of the changes taking place over the last decade.
This article provides an overview of the main achievements thus far and the next steps to continue fostering transparency and EOI globally, ensuring the level playing field, and assisting jurisdictions in mobilising domestic revenue by tackling offshore tax evasion.
An Inclusive Forum With Wide Membership And Extensive Capacity Building Activities
Under the G20 mandate, the Global Forum started its monitoring work in 2009 with 89 member jurisdictions. Since then, the membership of the Global Forum has expanded dramatically, reaching close to 170 members  in 2023, more than half of which are developing economies. The membership also includes all G20, OECD members, and international financial centres. All members work on an equal footing and have a say in all Global Forum’s decisions.
Robust monitoring is fundamental to the effective implementation of the transparency and EOI Standards. The peer review process cannot be underscored enough, as it constitutes the main ingredient for success in the monitoring process and ensuring the level playing field.
To further ensure that all members implement and benefit from the EOI Standards, the Global Forum has rolled out a capacity building and outreach programme since 2011. Capacity building has been crucial to the Global Forum’s success in ensuring not only the effective implementation of the tax transparency standards globally, but also its use to fight tax evasion and other forms of illicit financial flows. Over EUR 41 billion of additional revenue has been identified by developing countries since 2009 through voluntary disclosure programmes and similar initiatives, and offshore tax investigations. In 2022 alone, African, Asian and Latin American jurisdictions respectively identified EUR 76.6 million, EUR 3.9 billion and EUR 708 million through EOI.
The capacity building programme has grown over time and expanded with new initiatives and tools tailored to members’ needs. The support covers both Exchange of Information on Request (EOIR) and Automatic Exchange of Information on financial accounts (AEOI) Standards, including political engagement, technical assistance, training programmes, and knowledge-development tools. In 2022, 97 countries and jurisdictions benefitted from technical support, the highest number ever reached, highlighting the growing need for technical assistance in all areas of the implementation of the standards. 
Tailored regional programmes are conducted through regional initiatives – the Africa Initiative launched in 2014, the Latin America Initiative launched in 2018, and the Asia Initiative launched in 2021. For each initiative, the members set out their objectives and dedicated work plans, which are implemented with the support of international and regional partners. Progress is assessed in annual reports . A Pacific Initiative was also launched in October 2020, based on a phased approach for the gradual implementation of the standards to achieve transparency and strengthen domestic resource mobilisation in the region.
Ensuring Baseline Compliance With The EOI Standards
With a fifteen year track record, the Global Forum is conducting peer reviews of the implementation of both EOI Standards, thereby ensuring the level playing field and effective implementation of the EOI Standards. The results from these reviews are used by institutional investors and other organisations as one of the possible indicators to measure the level of transparency of jurisdictions. Over time, substantial progress has been made due to these peer review processes, notably on lifting bank secrecy  through the EOIR and AEOI reviews, and improving availability of beneficial ownership information through the EOIR peer review process.
Exchange Of Information On Request
Exchange of information on request (EOIR) has long been the foundation of the international architecture for transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes and is the most widely used form of exchange. In 2022, more than 130 jurisdictions reported engaging in EOIR. Over 26,600 requests for information were sent last year to support ongoing tax investigations.
The EOIR peer reviews have been conducted in two rounds. The first round took place from 2010 to 2016, covering 125 jurisdictions. In 2015, the EOIR Standard was strengthened, most notably to ensure that beneficial ownership information is available. This enhanced standard formed the basis of the second round of EOIR reviews, which commenced in 2016 and is ongoing.
As of November 2023, the Global Forum has rated 106 jurisdictions in Round 2. In total, 88 per cent of jurisdictions have been rated either ‘Compliant’ or ‘Largely Compliant’ in Round 2, but 10 per cent have been rated ‘Partially Compliant’ and two per cent ‘Non-Compliant’. Deficiencies found usually refer to issues in availability of beneficial ownership and accounting information, but also in the effectiveness and timeliness of EOI exchanges. Remaining reviews will primarily concern developing countries, of which more than thirty will be assessed for the first time. Jurisdictions that have received a ‘Partially Compliant’ or ‘Non-Compliant’ rating can apply for a supplementary review, to the extent they demonstrate sufficient progress made to address deficiencies and recommendations made. Before and after their peer review, developing countries are provided with tailored capacity building support to address any identified shortcomings.
An annual follow-up process ensures that assessed jurisdictions maintain effective EOIR implementation and includes self-reporting on actions taken to address any recommendations received in their EOIR reviews. It also provides an opportunity for any member jurisdiction to provide their feedback on the exchange with any other peer.
EOIR is increasingly used to complement the AEOI standard, with an increase in requests for specific information triggered by AEOI.
Automatic Exchange Of Financial Accounts Information
By 2023, close to 110 jurisdictions, varying in capacity and development, have commenced annual exchanges of information on financial accounts held by taxpayers outside of their jurisdiction of residence. AEOI information is being used by Global Forum members in 2023 for tax audits (88 per cent of the AEOI Peers), risk assessments (80 per cent), taxpayer notification (48 per cent), tax collection (34 per cent) and pre-filling tax return data (one per cent).
The Global Forum adopted a ‘Staged Approach’ to monitor, assess and assist in the implementation of the AEOI Standard. This approach stems for the recognition that full reviews of the effectiveness of the implementation of the AEOI Standard could only take place once exchanges took place, but other elements could benefit from an earlier assessment.
Currently the Global Forum is conducting the last stage of its Staged Approach. Following last year’s publication of the Peer Review of the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information 2022, which showed good progress by the jurisdictions that started implementing the AEOI Standard until 2018 , the Global Forum has started a second round of peer reviews focused on reviewing in greater detail the effectiveness of the implementation of the AEOI Standard. This assessment builds upon the initial assessments completed in 2022 and reflects higher expectations as the implementation of the AEOI Standard matures. This second round of reviews should be completed for around 100 jurisdictions by the end of 2025.
In the meantime, the Global Forum continues to monitor progress towards addressing the recommendations made in relation to the domestic legal frameworks put in place to implement AEOI. Overall, 94 per cent of jurisdictions have been found to have the legal framework either ‘In Place’ or ‘In Place But Needs Improvement’, which provides a very solid basis to ensure that the AEOI Standard operates effectively in practice and fully delivers the potential benefits it has to offer.
Ensuring the confidentiality and proper safeguarding of the sensitive information exchanged is critical to the AEOI standard. The Global Forum therefore carries out confidentiality and data safeguards assessments, both prior to the commencement of exchanges, and once they are underway, to maintain assurance that the data exchanged under AEOI is properly protected by participating tax administrations. The results of the assessments are not published due to their sensitive and confidential nature, although procedures are in place to address any gaps identified, including deferring the receipt of information if necessary.
Staying Fit For Purpose And Meeting New Challenges
In the coming years, the Global Forum will build on its commitment and monitoring processes to ensure the widespread implementation of the Crypto-Asset Reporting Framework (CARF) and the amendments to the AEOI Standard by relevant jurisdictions, as invited by the G20. The work has commenced this year, including establishing a new voluntary group (the CARF Group), which already counts around fifty members.
Further, the Global Forum has also agreed to adapt its peer review and monitoring processes in view of the growing maturity of the EOIR and AEOI standards, enhancing its ability to serve members in the future in an efficient and effective way.
Other areas of work include risks to the effective implementation of the EOI Standards, promoting knowledge-sharing between Global Forum members, enhancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as cross-border assistance in the recovery of tax claims. These activities and analysis of the Global Forum’s work can be found in the 2023 Annual Report .
1 Starting from 1996, the G8 (later the G7), and subsequently the G20, made the fight against tax evasion and harmful tax competition one of their priorities. In 2000, the Global Forum on Tax Transparency was created. Progress was slow, but significant, with the publication of reports between 2000 and 2008 and the addition of a clause on the exchange of information in the model tax convention regularly published by the OECD.
2 The Global Forum has 168 jurisdictions and the European Union as members, with Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe being the most recent ones.
3 OECD (2023), New Horizons in Capacity Building for Tax Transparency: 2023 Global Forum Capacity Building Report, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/tax/transparency/documents/capacity-building-report-2023.htm.
4 OECD (2023), Tax Transparency in Latin America 2023: Punta del Este Declaration Progress Report, Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/tax/transparency/documents/tax-transparency-in-latin-america-2023.pdf.
OECD (2023), Tax Transparency in Africa 2023: Africa Initiative Progress Report, Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/tax/transparency/documents/tax-transparency-in-africa-2023.pdf.
OECD (2023), Tax Transparency in Asia 2023, Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, OECD, Paris, Tax Transparency in Asia 2023: Asia Initiative Progress Report (oecd.org)
5 Bank secrecy for EOI purpose has been eliminated in 67 jurisdictions since 2009.
6 OECD (2022), Peer Review of the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information 2022, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/36e7cded-en.
7 OECD (2023), Pioneering Global Progress in Tax Transparency: A Journey of Transformation and Development - 2023 Global Forum Annual Report, Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/tax/transparency/documents/global-forum-annual-report-2023.pdf.
Zayda is Head of the Secretariat of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. She previously served as Senior Economist at the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund; and was Deputy General Commissioner of the Brazil Revenue Administration. Her specialties include Tax, Transparency, International Tax and Tax Administration.