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Towards a Level Playing Field,
second edition.


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

 


16 November 2001

OECD tax project less successful than thought, says ITIO

The International Tax and Investment Organisation, a grouping of small and developing economies (SDEs), is concerned that the impression is being given that the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has more support for its "harmful tax practices project" than is the case.

In its statement accompanying the publication of the report on Wednesday 14 November, the OECD says, "There are now a total of 11 committed jurisdictions". In a statement on the same day, Gabs Makhlouf, the Chairman of the OECD's Committee on Fiscal Affairs, said, "Eleven jurisdictions have committed to eliminate their harmful tax practices".

Some commentators have taken this to mean that nearly a third of the jurisdictions named as tax havens - ie eleven out of 35 - have made a commitment. This is far from being the case. The actual position is that, in the past eighteen months, only five of the 35 (or one in seven) jurisdictions on the OECD's tax haven list have signed up.

The confusion arises because six potential tax havens made a commitment to the OECD's controversial tax project before the OECD issued its original list in 2000 and thus did not figure among the 35 listed.

ITIO spokesperson Ben Coleman commented: "The OECD's tax project is proving less successful than it had hoped. We welcome OECD members' publicly stated desire for 'change through dialogue and consensus'. The tax project will get much further if small and developing economies are involved fully in the development of new standards."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The International Tax and Investment Organisation (ITIO) is a grouping of small and developing economies (SDEs) set up in March 2001 to help SDEs respond to global tax and investment challenges. It explicitly considers the development implications of these challenges.

2. The ITIO currently comprises Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Malaysia, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Turks & Caicos and Vanuatu. The Commonwealth Secretariat, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and CARICOM Secretariat have observer status.

3. The statement issued by the OECD to accompany its 2001 Progress Report is on the internet at http://www.oecd.org/oecd/pages/home/displaygeneral
/0,3380,EN-document-0-nodirectorate-no-12-21176-0,FF.html

4. OECD Fiscal Affairs Committee Chairman Gabs Makhlouf's statement is on the internet at http://www.oecd.org/pdf/M00021000/M00021178.pdf .

5. The OECD's own progress report in 2000 ("Towards Global Tax Cooperation") makes clear that "A small number of the jurisdictions reviewed by the Forum have, in advance of this reporting, made a public political commitment at the highest level (an 'advance commitment') to eliminate their harmful tax practices and to comply with the principles of the 1998 Report. In recognition of this commitment, this Report does not include the names of jurisdictions that have made this advance commitment ('advance commitment jurisdictions') even if they presently meet the tax haven criteria. [para.17]" (this report is on the internet at http://www.oecd.org/pdf/M000014000/M00014130.pdf).


6. The 2001 Progress Report published on Wednesday states that members of the OECD Fiscal Affairs Committee "strongly prefer an approach that promotes change through dialogue and consensus" (para. 49; the report is on the internet at http://www.oecd.org/pdf/M00021000/M00021182.pdf).

7. British Treasury Minister Dawn Primarolo has wrongly claimed that a dozen jurisdictions support the OECD's project, stating, "The [UK] Government welcomes the commitments and action that 12 tax havens have now made to end harmful tax practices" (see UK Inland Revenue press release of 14 November, on the internet at http://213.38.88.195/coi/coipress.nsf/ ).


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ITIO THANKS COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY-GENERAL

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