Countries participating in the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information have launched a peer review process covering a first group of 18 jurisdictions: Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Botswana, Canada, Cayman Islands, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Jersey, Mauritius, Monaco, Norway, Panama, Qatar, Trinidad & Tobago.

A release from the OECD today claims that “*the international fight against cross-border tax evasion has entered a new phase”* and advises that the reviews are a first step in a three-year process approved in February by the Global Forum. This was in response to the call by G20 leaders at their Pittsburgh Summit in September 2009 for improved tax transparency and exchange of information. In addition to a complete [schedule]( of forthcoming reviews, the Global Forum also published three other key documents:

– the [Terms of Reference]( explaining the information exchange standard countries must meet;

– the [Methodology]( for the conduct of the reviews;

– the [Assessment criteria]( explaining how countries will be rated.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría welcomed this new step forward for the international tax compliance agenda. He said: *”The Global Forum has been quick to respond to the G20 call for a robust peer review mechanism aimed at ensuring rapid implementation of the OECD standard on information exchange. This is the most comprehensive peer review process in the world, and it is based on decades of experience at the OECD in conducting reviews of this kind in many other areas of policy making. I look forward to seeing the first results later this year”.*

The Global Forum brings together 91 countries and territories, including both OECD and non-OECD countries. At a meeting in Mexico in September 2009, participants agreed that all members as well as identified non members will undergo reviews on their implementation of the standard. These reviews will be carried out in two phases: assessment of the legislative and regulatory framework (phase 1) and assessment of the effective implementation in practice (phase 2).

Mike Rawstron, chair of the Global Forum, stated: *“This is the most comprehensive, in-depth review on international tax co-operation ever. There has been a lot of progress over the past 18 months, but with these reviews we are putting international tax co-operation under a magnifying glass. The peer review process will identify jurisdictions that are not implementing the standards. These will be provided with guidance on the changes required and a deadline to report back on the improvements they have made”.*

Reports from the Reviews will be published once they have been adopted by the Global Forum, which meets next in Singapore at the end of September 2010.