October 26, 2011 / 6:54 PM / 8 years ago

Nine countries found wanting on tax openness

* Pressure on offshore tax havens yielding results

* Lack of progress not necessarily due to reluctance

PARIS, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Nine tax jurisdictions have not made sufficient headway on sharing tax information with foreign authorities, according to officials at an international tax forum in Paris on Wednesday.

Since Group of 20 countries agreed at a 2009 summit in London to crack down on tax havens, some 700 agreements to share tax information with foreign authorities have been signed by countries and territories that previously refused to do so.

However, Antigua and Barbuda, Botswana, Barbados, Brunei, Panama, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Vanuatu were still found wanting in their progress to open up their tax systems to foreign authorities.

Brunei, Uruguay and Vanuatu were the most recent to be added to the list in the latest round of peer reviews by countries and territories belonging to the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of information for Tax Purposes, which has 105 members.

Officials said the lack of progress was not necessarily a sign of reluctance towards sharing tax information, but was in many cases due to technical and legislative obstacles.

“All of us ... have areas in which we can improve and the whole idea of the process is to encourage the adoption of international standards,” the forum’s chairman, Mike Rawstron, told a news conference.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which hosted a meeting of the forum on Tuesday and Wednesday, estimates that governments in 20 major economies have recovered 14 billion euros ($19.3 billion) from would-be tax evaders over the past two years thanks to pressure on offshore tax havens to open up. [ID:nL5E7LP2AF]

The forum has so far carried out 59 peer reviews and the results of their findings are to be put to leaders of the G20 when they meet next week at a heads of state summit in Cannes.

French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said it was not enough to sign up to accords to share tax information and said jurisdictions that fail to follow through could face sanctions.

“We must show firmness towards countries and territories that drag their feet on applying our principles (on information sharing),” he told the conference.

He did not say whether the nine jurisdictions in particular risked being targeted by sanctions. ($1 = 0.724 Euros) (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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