By Daniel Hunter

As a further sign of international efforts to crack down on tax offenders, 12 more countries have signed, or committed to sign, the OECD’s Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.

“This is a historic moment for the Convention and another winning round in the fight against tax cheats,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría during the signing ceremony. “In the past 2 years more than 60 countries have signed the Convention or stated their intention to do so, marking an important milestone on the road to closer cooperation and more transparency — to making the international system fair to all taxpayers.”

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam said: “Signing the Convention reflects Singapore’s commitment to tax cooperation based on international standards, but the standards can only work if all financial centres come on board. Singapore will work with our international partners to achieve that, so that Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore, Hong Kong and offshore jurisdictions like the British Overseas Territories move together.”

The G20 has consistently supported the Convention. At their last meeting G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors stated, “In view of the next G20 Summit, we also strongly encourage all jurisdictions to sign or express interest in signing the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and call on the OECD to report on progress”.

With taxpayers increasingly operating worldwide, tax authorities are moving from bilateral to multilateral cooperation and from exchange of information on request to other forms of co-operation such as automatic exchange of information. The Convention, provides a comprehensive multilateral framework for such co-operation and complements other initiatives, such as the standardised multilateral automatic exchange model being developed by the OECD and its G20 partners and efforts underway in the European Union to improve automatic exchange.

The Convention also provides for spontaneous exchange of information, simultaneous tax examinations and assistance in tax collection. A valuable tool for governments to fight offshore tax evasion, the Convention also ensures compliance with national tax laws and respects the rights of taxpayers by protecting the confidentiality of the information exchanged.

The signatories to the Convention are: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudia Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.

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