The exchange of tax information between countries during the past 10 years has resulted in “unprecedented success” in the fight against tax evasion, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The exchange of information on request alone had enabled the recovery of nearly EUR7.5 billion of additional tax revenue. Foreign-owned bank deposits in international financial centres are today 22% lower – or about US$410 billion – compared to 2008. And EUR100 billion in additional tax revenue has been identified since 2009.

More than 500 delegates from 131 countries celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes at a meeting in Paris this week.

The Global Forum, with 158 member jurisdictions including the Cayman Islands, caused the implementation of international standards and “prompted a tidal shift in exchange of information for tax purposes”, the OECD said.

The use of bilateral tax information exchange agreements has enabled more than 250,000 information requests during the past decade.

Last year, the multilateral automatic exchange of information using the OECD’s common reporting standard added the data of 47 million accounts covering US$4.9 trillion in total assets. The organisation credited the launch of the automatic exchange mechanism in 2017 with the decline in offshore bank deposits held by non-residents.

“The Global Forum has been a game-changer,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Thanks to international cooperation, tax authorities now have access to a huge trove of information that was previously beyond reach. Tax authorities are talking to each other and taxpayers are starting to understand that there’s nowhere left to hide. The benefits to the tax system’s fairness are enormous,” he said.

Almost all Global Forum members have eliminated bank secrecy for tax purposes, with nearly 70 jurisdictions changing their laws since 2009.

In addition, almost all members either forbid bearer shares – previously a longstanding impediment to tax-compliance efforts – or ensure that the owners can be identified. Since 2017, members must also ensure transparency of the beneficial owners of legal entities, so these cannot be used to conceal ownership and evade tax.

Most Global Forum members had deficiencies in the availability of accounting records. Thirty jurisdictions received unsatisfactory Global Forum assessments between 2010 and 2016.

The gaps in the regulatory framework have been addressed by practically all of them, and the focus has now shifted to ensuring that these provisions are effectively enforced and supervised, the Global Forum said in a 10th anniversary report.

To improve the uptake of automatic exchange of financial information in developing countries, the OECD-UNDP Tax Inspectors Without Borders Initiative launched a pilot project this week aimed at supporting the effective use of the data.

“There is still a lot of work ahead of us,” said Zayda Manatta, head of the Global Forum Secretariat. “Members must continue efforts to ensure full implementation of existing standards and address the tax transparency challenges of an increasingly integrated and digitalised global economy.”

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