The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax purposes, hosted by the OECD, has released ten reports which evaluate jurisdictions’ commitment to tax transparency and examine whether information is made available and accessible to foreign tax authorities. These reports follow eight released in September 2010, and 10 others released in January 2011 (see Rosemont's earlier report on the subject in March).
Reports on Aruba, The Bahamas, Belgium, Estonia, and Ghana evaluate their legal and regulatory frameworks for the exchange of information. Reports on Canada and Germany assess both the legal frameworks and their implementation in practice.
The detailed assessments can be found on the OECD website. In summary:
Aruba: The legal and regulatory framework for the exchange of information is in place in Aruba, but there are a number of areas where some improvement is needed.The report makes recommendations regarding the availability of information on limited partnerships, foundations and bearer shares issued by some companies, as well the need to bring the exchange of information agreements that have been signed over the past 2 years into force quickly. Aruba’s Phase 2 review is scheduled for the first half of 2014.
The Bahamas: Only one significant issue was discovered in the review of The Bahamas – a problem ensuring the availability of accounting information for all relevant entities and arrangements including international business companies, registered private and foreign-incorporated companies, authorised purpose trusts and foundations. Otherwise, all essential elements identified in the Global Forum’s Terms of Reference were found to be in place. The Bahamas’ Phase 2 review is scheduled for the second half of 2012.
Belgium: Belgium has made great strides in developing its exchange of information network. Though it has signed 41 information exchange agreements that meet the standard in the past two years, due to the political situation in Belgium only one of those agreements is in force. Belgium will undergo a Phase 2 peer review in the second half of 2012 provided that it ratifies a significant number of the treaties that comply with the standard.
Estonia: The peer review has identified some deficiencies in the domestic laws of Estonia due to restrictive conditions imposed by domestic law for obtaining bank information. In addition, there are a number of areas where some improvement is needed, including the availability of information on foreign companies and foundations, and its confidentiality provisions. The Phase 2 Peer Review of Estonia which is scheduled for the first half of 2013.
Ghana: Ghana has an adequate legal and regulatory framework for exchange of information for tax purposes. The report, however, identifies some areas were improvement is needed, in particular the availability of information on foreign companies, trusts, underlying documentation for accounting records, and the extent of Ghana’s exchange of information network. Some portion of Ghana’s framework for transparency and exchange of information is relatively new. Thus, the Phase 2 assessment scheduled for the second half of 2013 is particularly necessary in the case of Ghana.
Canada and Germany, both members of the influential G7 group of nations, were fully approved by their peer reviewers for both Phase 1 and Phase 2. However they were advised to improve availability of ownership information of bearer shares and nominees, and the reviewers pointed out that Germany was slow to respond to requests for assistance.
A further 35 reviews should be completed by November for the G20 Summit at Cannes.