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Global peer review group on taxes
October, 05th 2009

In a testimony to its growing clout in international economic affairs, India has been elected as a Vice Chair of a global peer review group that will monitor the progress made by various countries in improving transparency and exchange of tax information.

The Peer Review Group would be part of 'Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes' -- a grouping of nations that works towards establishing international tax norms.

"India has been elected as a Vice Chair of the Peer Review Group (of the Forum) that would mainly assess the progress made by different countries in implementing the international tax standards," a top official of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) told PTI from Paris.

Apart from India, Japan, Singapore and Jersey have also been elected as Vice Chairs of the Peer Review Group. These countries have been chosen for a three-year period. The Group would be chaired by France.

The countries were elected at the meeting of the Forum held in Mexico where delegates from over 70 jurisdictions and international organisations participated. OECD, a grouping of rich nations, is leading initiatives on international tax standards.

India has a significant role in helping improve tax transparency and the Peer Review Group would look into various issues like governance structure and functioning norms, OECD's Head of Division (Tax Cooperation) Pascal Saint-Amans said.

The Forum has potential 91 member countries, since many of them are yet to be formally admitted into it, he said.

The official noted that the monitoring and peer review would be an ongoing exercise.

The Peer Review Group would focus on in-depth monitoring and peer review of the implementation of the standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, according to information available on OECD website.

The Global Forum would be chaired by Australia while China, Germany and Bermuda have been elected as Vice Chairs.

At the Pittsburgh Summit last month, G-20 leaders pledged to continue their fight against tax havens and also welcomed the participation of developing countries in the Forum.

"The main focus of the Forum's work will be to improve tax transparency and exchange of information so that countries can fully enforce their tax laws to protect their tax base.

"We stand ready to use countermeasures against tax havens from March 2010," the recent G-20 communique had said.

The issue of exchanging tax information between countries came into the limelight after the G-20 leaders pledged to crackdown on tax havens during their London Summit in April.

In April this year, OECD published a list of countries which are not fully-compliant with global tax standards.

Pascal Saint-Amans said there has been significant progress since the grey list was published and many countries have committed to complying with the international tax standards.

Now, we are moving towards implementation of the commitments made, especially those related to exchange of tax information between countries, the official added.

Recently, OECD removed Switzerland, which is known for its banking secrecy, from the grey list of tax havens. The country was taken off the list after it signed 12 double taxation agreements with nations, including the US and the UK.

India, where there have been demands for long for steps towards bringing back any possible black money stashed in Swiss banks, will also begin talks in December for a new double taxation treaty with Switzerland.

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