OECD, Commonwealth Agree to Work towards Global Co-operation on Harmful Tax Practices

OECD and Commonwealth countries have agreed on a way forward in efforts to achieve global co-operation on harmful tax practices through a dialogue based on shared support for the principles of transparency, non-discrimination and effective exchange of information on tax matters.

The agreement was achieved at a two-day meeting co-organised by the OECD and the Commonwealth in Barbados under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, and attended by representatives of more than 40 jurisdictions including OECD and Commonwealth countries and jurisdictions in the Caribbean and
Neighbouring region. A number of international and regional organisations were also represented, including the IMF, the World Bank, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Center for Inter-American Tax Administrators and the Pacific Islands Forum.

The meeting allowed participants to engage in a frank, open and ultimately fruitful exchange of views on the purpose and the implications of the OECD’s initiative on harmful tax practices. In further pursuit of their dialogue, participants agreed to establish a joint working group bringing together representatives from the Commonwealth, CARICOM, the Pacific Islands Forum and OECD countries and territories.

The working group will be co-chaired by Australia and Barbados. The provisional list of members also includes Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, France, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu. The working group will hold its first meeting before the end of January in London and will make a first report ahead of a meeting to be organised in Tokyo by the Japanese government in co-operation with the OECD and the Pacific Islands Forum on 15-16 February 2001.

Remit for the Working Group

Discussion at the 8-9 January 2001 High-Level Consultations in Barbados showed that there is much common ground between participants on the substantive issues, although there remain some divergences on process.

The broad principles, which we discussed – transparency, non-discrimination, effective exchange of information – gained a wide consent.

We agreed to build upon this agreement. We agreed to create a small tightly knit joint Working Group, of representatives from the Commonwealth, CARICOM, Pacific Island Forum and OECD countries and territories.

Its task will be two-fold:

*First, to take the three principles noted above and to find a mutually acceptable political process by which these principles could be turned into commitments. This process, if successful, would replace the OECD’s process in the context of its Memorandum of Understanding.

*Second, to examine how to continue the dialogue begun in Barbados. The Group will examine how the recently created Global Forum on taxation can evolve into a truly inclusive Global Forum, which would promote global co-operation on tax matters. It will also identify further relevant tax issues for consideration by such a Forum.

Work on the first task will begin immediately so the outcome can be fed into the Tokyo meeting on the 15-16 February 2001. The second task will also begin immediately but can be concluded on a less tight timetable.

OECD – News Release
Paris, 10 January 2001