Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are things hotting up in Paris?


From our correspondent blogger Martin Hearson - at the OECD's headquarters in Paris

UK Treasury Secretary Stephen Timms and the OECD have confirmed that an internationally-agreed country-by-country reporting standard is expected by the end of this year. It will be part of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a set of voluntary standards that are often ignored by business, but do have a non-binding dispute mechanism.

The discussion here, even among several multinational companies (when pressed) has moved on to what information should be included within a country-by-country reporting standard, and how it should be reported, not about if it should be done. A number of MNCs either already collect this information, or say it would be difficult but possible.

The UK has announced that by the end of 2010 it will sign a multilateral tax information exchange agreement with developing – mostly African – states. It is inviting other countries to join the same agreement, making it a many-to-many agreement, something we’ve called for as a first step.

Sitting alongside the Council of Europe-OECD convention on info exchange, it means there are two multilateral options for developing countries to exchange information – on request. The proof of the pudding will be whether OECD members and eventually secrecy jurisdictions join these agreements, and how much support is offered to developing countries to join.

Automatic is in! For the first time in a public forum, Jeffrey Owens said “Automatic versus on-request is a false debate. It’s not on-request OR automatic, but both. Which is best depends on the situation.”

Stephen Timms said, “we need more moves in the direction of automatic information exchange,” and said “the point was rightly made” that we also need to address beneficial ownership.

The President of Mexico’s tax administration said “we should all be moving towards automatic information exchange.” Of course, nothing so concrete yet, but this is a definite shift in what the OECD and UK are prepared to say publicly.

A tax and development task force is to be formed – this is the OECD’s headline. It will include ‘all stakeholders' and will start off by doing mapping work.

The OECD communiqué is here: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/7/36/44493096.pdf

Stephen Timms’ speech is here: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/speech_fst_270110.htm

Richard Murphy’s been live-blogging is here: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/



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