Earlier in March the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes published the latest batch of peer review reports on nine countries, including a Phase 1 Supplementary Report on Switzerland.
The Supplementary Phase 1 Report on Switzerland welcomed the country’s efforts to improve tax transparency within its jurisdiction, stating that recent moves demonstrate its continuing progress toward implementation of the international standard for exchange of information on request. In conclusion, the report considered that Switzerland’s efforts were sufficient for it to be removed from the category of jurisdictions that have been blocked in the peer review process. As a result of the removal of the block, Switzerland will move forward to an assessment of its effective implementation of the exchange of information on request. It is expect that the report will be available in the latter part of 2016.
The change to Switzerland’s position follows the introduction of improvements to the exchange of tax information and legal framework since the earlier Phase 1 report was published in 2011. Since then Switzerland has expanded its global network of tax treaties, through joining the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, and executing new bilateral tax agreements. These changes are reflected in the increase of exchange of information agreements which have grown to 127 of which 92 meet international standards and of those 42 currently are in force. A new law on international administrative assistance has also recently been introduced in the jurisdiction.
Phase 1 reports to assess the legal and regulatory framework for transparency and exchange of information were published on El Salvador and Mauritania. Both countries passed the assessment and will move to an assessment of the practice of exchange of information.
The reports on the Phase 2 peer review process were also published on a further six jurisdictions. The reports focussed on exchange of information practices of each jurisdiction, allocating ratings for compliance with individual elements of international standards and an overall rating for the jurisdiction under review. Of the six jurisdictions only Curaço received an overall rating as ‘partially compliant’ with Aruba, Cook Islands, Hungary, Portugal and Uruguay being rated overall as ‘largely compliant’.
To date the OECD Global Forum has assigned compliance ratings 76 jurisdictions that have completed the Phase 2 peer review. A total of 183 peer reviews have been completed. ‘Non-compliant’ ratings remain applicable to only four jurisdictions; a rating of ‘partially compliant’ has been applied to ten jurisdictions, while eleven jurisdictions continue to be blocked from proceeding to a Phase 2 peer review. The blocked jurisdictions are considered to have insufficiencies in their legal and regulatory framework. Since its last review in 2012 the Marshall Islands has introduced a number of legislative changes to address concerns regarding its legal framework and is currently undergoing a supplementary review to assess whether the changes are sufficient to comply with international standards.