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Peer review of tax information exchange agreements: Is it more than just about the numbers?


The rush by tax havens to conclude Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) has been a recent feature of the international agreement scene. As at 31 December 2010 over 450 TIEAs have been negotiated (although other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sources suggest the number is nearer 600), representing the relatively benign phase of "establishing the numbers" through the OECD's program of enhancing transparency and information exchange.

With the "hype" over the success of securing tax havens' willingness to sign up to TIEAs, the real test is now underway. A peer review process - where the legal and regulatory framework in each jurisdiction (Phase 1) and the implementation of the standards in practice (Phase 2) - has been established by the OECD's Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (OECD, 2010). Both Phases may provide evidence of whether the momentum generated through the rush by tax havens to sign up is merely about the numbers (where a tax haven is required to negotiate a minimum of twelve TIEAs to come off the OECD’s blacklist), or whether this is a new era of transparency and information exchange that exceeds the OECD’s rhetoric.

This article builds upon prior research and extends this through a critical examination of the OECD’s rhetoric, as well as the peer review process’ Schedule of Reviews, Terms of Reference, Methodology and Assessment Criteria, in order to offer a preliminary assessment of whether there could be a real change to the approach of information exchange between tax havens and OECD countries.

Author profile

Prof Adrian Sawyer
Adrian is Professor of Taxation in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch NZ. - Current at 01 March 2015
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