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Global tax data exchange plan floated to recoup cash

OECD outlines plan for automatic exchange of data if IT can agree on formats, crypto

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The world's getting serious about multinational tax avoidance, with with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) today delivering a report (PDF) titled “A step change in tax transparency: Delivering a standardised,secure and cost effective model of bilateral automatic exchange for the multilateral context” to the G8 summit.

The summit is the annual invitation-only geopolitical gabfest attended by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus some representatives from the EU.

The G8 asked the OECD to prepare the report, following an April 2013 meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers that recommended automatic exchange of tax data among nations aimed at addressing the fact that “Vast amounts of money are kept offshore and go untaxed to the extent that taxpayers fail to comply with tax obligations in their home jurisdiction.”

“Cooperation between tax administrations is critical in the fight against tax evasion,” the report says, “and a key aspect of that cooperation is exchange of information.”

The report says two IT-related challenges are key to enabling multilateral data exchange, namely development of a universally-agreed data format (we smell an XML schema brewing) and “secure and compatible methods of transmission and encryption of the data”.

Some such frameworks already exist, in the form of the OECD's Standard Transmission Format (STF) and “Model 1 IGA” developed by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the USA. The report says this model is a fine starting point for a wider scheme.

Legislation to enable automated data exchange is another item the OECD says must be on the to-do list of those who would stop international tax naughtiness. This step could be complicated, as the report notes that while different treaties mean some nations already have data-sharing obligations, they are far from universal.

The tone of the report is up-beat: it points out that lots of the things needed to get more tax information flowing more often are already in place and left this reader feeling meaningful action on corporate tax avoidance is possible in a year or three. The report's rapid delivery – less than 90 days since the April G20 meeting – also hints at collective will for action among the powerful and wise.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría seems to have the same impression.

“I congratulate the G8 for putting its full force behind international efforts to bolster sustainable growth through global solutions to tax evasion and avoidance,” he said in a canned statement about the report. ®

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