OECD impressed with progress on transparency

| 23/06/2009

(CNS): Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary General Angel Gurria has said that rapid progress has been made over the last few months on transparency and information exchange. “Over these eight months, we have made more progress than in the last 10 years,” he said in Berlin today, (Tuesday 23 June) adding that the number of tax information exchange agreements doubled to over 80 during the last six months.

He said that over the next two months, the OECD aims to strengthen the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information by setting up a robust peer review mechanism, monitoring the implementation of agreed tax standards, and developing further countermeasures against non-cooperative countries.

"In these difficult times, when governments need every dollar of tax revenue, when citizens need to be reassured that the tax burden is being fairly shared, when governments are striving to improve transparency in financial markets, it is essential that the international community moves forward," Gurria said at the meeting of 18 finance ministry officials from European Union and OECD countries.

The meeting also saw the 18 nation agree that sanctions may be applied against countries not complying with OECD standards. Although they have not yet described under what circumstances sanctions might be implemented. The agreement on sanctions was contained in a communiqué that was signed by the countries attending including some of the  “grey list” countries that have not yet fully met OECD standards. 

Among the sanctions proposed was the ending of treaties between the non co-operative jurisdictions by those that are signed up to abide by the OECD’s standards. A Swiss delegate to the meeting, finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz, warned against the imposing of sanctions too hurriedly.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told reporters measures would be taken to tackle foundations and holding companies that make avoiding tax easier. “It’s of decisive significance that we don’t stay put,” Steinbrueck said. “Declarations alone, as important as they are, have to be followed up with action.”

Funds held offshore by individuals or companies to evade taxes or escape from political instability in their home countries are “somewhere between $5 trillion and $7 trillion,” according to OECD Gurria.

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