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Towards a Level Playing Field,
second edition.

Report undertaken by Stikeman Elliott on behalf of the ITIO and STEP.


05 October 2006


On 8 June 2006 Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon released a statement:

"For several years now, the Commonwealth Secretariat has supported the efforts of small states to bring about fairness in the international financial services sector. Mr McKinnon therefore welcomed the new 82-country survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on 'Tax Co-operation: Towards a Level Playing Field' which provides the information necessary for small states to secure equal treatment.

In 2000, some 35 countries, including Commonwealth member states, were identified by the OECD as being 'tax havens'. These countries were not consulted about this new process, and were threatened with punitive measures if they failed to meet compliance procedures. The OECD was severely criticised for failure to apply these same principles to its own members. The Commonwealth played a leading role in promoting consultation and co-operation between the OECD and its own, Commonwealth, member states. The Secretariat hosted meetings between the OECD and some of the Commonwealth's small states, as well as sponsoring attendance at the discussions. In doing so, it sought to ensure that the unique vulnerabilities and challenges of small and developing states were considered fully.

"The survey shows that there has been some progress towards fair competition and transparency in international tax matters," said the Secretary-General, commenting on the fact that 56 of the 82 countries now have domestic laws permitting the exchange of tax information. "This is progress, but there is further to go, and that includes in Commonwealth countries. I recognise that the process still requires extensive international review and negotiation. And I stress that we in the Commonwealth remain committed to our vulnerable members. We will continue to assist them in these negotiations."

The ITIO wrote to Secretary-General McKinnon to thank him for his support for small and developing nations.

Rt. Hon. Donald C McKinnon
Secretary General
The Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough Hose
Pall Mall
London SW1Y 5HX
United Kingdom

15 August 2006

Dear Secretary General McKinnon

I am writing on behalf of the members of the International Trade & Investment Organisation (ITIO) to express our support and thanks for the statement that you made on 8 June 2006 following the publication by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development of the report ‘Tax Co-operation: Towards a Level Playing Field’.

We share the view that consultation and co-operation are the best ways to take forward the process of building multilateral and bilateral support processes in the tax arena. Stigmatisation of and threats towards small and developing nations by groupings of large and powerful economies is counter-productive and inappropriate when the large and powerful economies may not themselves conform to the principles of transparency and effective exchange of information in tax matters.

There remains some considerable way to go before a ‘level playing field’ in international tax co-operation comes into being. In the meantime, ITIO members play their full part in consultation and co-operation, and praise the supportive stance taken by you and the Commonwealth in this area.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Couch
Deputy Chair

NB The ITIO members are: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Isle of Man, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, Samoa, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Turks & Caicos, and Vanuatu.

The Deputy Chair can be contacted at:
The Treasury
Government Office
Isle of Man IM1 3TX
British Isles
Tel: +44 1624 685355 (direct)

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The ITIO has thanked Commonwealth Secretary-General McKinnon for his stance following the publication of an OECD report, 'Tax Co-operation: Towards  a Level Playing Field'...

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