The OECD’s Global Forum on Taxation has concluded its fourth meeting in Melbourne, Australia, and issued a Statement on the outcome of its review of the progress towards a level playing field based on *”high standards of transparency and effective exchange of information for tax purposes.”* The review was undertaken in accordance with a process agreed at the third Forum in Berlin in June 2004. A Sub Group on Level Playing Field Issues, comprising both OECD and non-OECD economies, was mandated to assist in this process, and will continue to function until a final Report is published in early 2006.

Over 130 representatives of 55 governments, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the European Commission participated in the Forum. The OECD has noted that in the context of the Melbourne meeting and of the Draft Report circulated at the meeting, the term “Global Forum” refers to the grouping of OECD and non-OECD economies that have agreed to work together towards a level playing field in the areas of transparency and exchange of information in tax matters. These economies are referred to as Participating Partners. The Global Forum had agreed in Berlin to invite other economies to the Melbourne meeting. A footnote to the report indicates that *“Not all the views expressed in this paper are shared by all of the Invitees.”*

**Country Review**

A release from the OECD’s headquarters in Paris today indicated that the two day discussions, based upon the review of the relevant legal and administrative frameworks currently in place in 81 countries, showed that considerable progress has already been made towards a global level playing field in the areas of transparency and effective exchange of information in tax matters. The discussions also identified a number of areas where further progress needs to be made.

The statement that was issued at the conclusion of the meeting *(see link below)* reports on the outcomes from the two day meeting as well as the next steps in the process.

The issuance of the final report will help to provide public recognition to those countries that have implemented the high standards of transparency and effective exchange of information and ensure that current information on countries’ legal and administrative frameworks is widely available. The Global Forum acknowledges that it is important for international bodies to give public recognition when such changes are implemented. Specifically, it said International bodies may wish to consider providing tangible forms of positive recognition, through their work programmes and in public statements, to countries that implement the principles of transparency and effective exchange of information.

**OECD Tax Haven List**

The OECD Statement commented on the way in which some countries have used the 2000 OECD list. *”If a country chooses to use a list of countries derived from the OECD list, it should do so based on the relevant current facts. Thus, progress made in the implementation of the principles of transparency and effective exchange of information in tax matters should be taken into account by such countries and their legislatures.”* It specifically points to the description of the list as contained in that report: *”this listing is intended to reflect the technical conclusions of the committee only and is not intended to be used as the basis for possible co-ordinated defensive measures.”*

It was noted, further, that the 2000 OECD list should be seen in its historical context and as an evaluation by OECD member countries at a particular point in time. The upcoming Report, once completed and as updated periodically, will provide more up-to-date information. *”This does not reflect any judgment by the Global Forum on the tax or other policies underlying country lists.”*

**Next Meeting**

In conclusion, the Global Forum (a) welcomed the progress made by the Sub-Group on Level Playing Field Issues in carrying out the mandate given to it at the Berlin Global Forum meeting; (b) confirmed that it would wish the Sub-Group to continue its work and complete its mandate; and (c) agreed that the Sub-Group should propose a date for the next meeting of the Global Forum at which time the further progress made on the items discussed in Melbourne would also be addressed.

Members of the Level Playing Field Sub-Group are Australia, The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, France, Germany, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Mauritius, Mexico, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Seychelles, and the United States. The Commonwealth Secretariat serves as an observer.