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Exchange of information and taxpayer confidentiality: OECD reports

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A new OECD report sets out the legal basis for automatic exchange of information between tax authorities and the current ‘state of play’.

In its introduction to Automatic Exchange of Information: What it is, how it works, benefits, what remains to be done, the OECD noted that while its work on exchange of information on request and the peer review work of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information were well known, it had also worked towards making automatic information exchange an effective compliance tool ‘for countries wishing to use it’.

Automatic exchange of information involves ‘the systematic and periodic transmission of “bulk” taxpayer information by the source country to the residence country’.

The OECD said its work ‘does not suggest a change in the current international standard, which is information exchange upon request’.

The OECD report was presented to G20 leaders at the June 2012 summit and was welcomed in the G20 communiqué, the OECD added.

The Tax Justice Network noted in June that ‘for years the OECD, the club of rich countries that jealously guards its role as the arbiter of transparency (or information exchange) in the global economy, has insisted that its hopelessly flawed system of “on request” information exchange is the “internationally agreed standard”. But recent OECD statements had suggested a move ‘much closer’ to the position TJN and its allies had been pushing, it said.

 ‘Sensitive financial information’

‘Confidentiality of taxpayer information has always been a fundamental cornerstone of tax systems,’ the OECD noted in a second report, Keeping it safe: The OECD guide on the protection of confidentiality of information exchanged for tax purposes.

‘In order to have confidence in their tax system and comply with their obligations under the law, taxpayers need to have confidence that the often sensitive financial information is not disclosed inappropriately, whether intentionally or by accident,’ it said.

‘Citizens and their governments will only have confidence in international exchange if the information exchanged is used and disclosed only in accordance with the agreement on the basis of which it is exchanged.’