December 2, 2009 / 5:04 PM / 10 years ago

Tax haven clamp down moving to enforcement phase-OECD

* Tax haven clamp-down moving to new enforcement phase

* Progress in implementing tax standards a “revolution”.

* OECD is not seeking tax rate harmonisation

By Chris Vellacott

LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - A global crack down on tax evasion in financial centres is moving into a more difficult enforcement phase, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development official said on Wednesday.

Jeffrey Owens, director of the OECD’s centre for tax policy and administration told delegates at a conference that progress made in implementing tougher disclosure requirements since the G20 summit in London in April amounted to a “revolution.”

World leaders agreed at the G20 summit in London to crack down on tax evasion and banking secrecy and asked the OECD to publish lists of tax havens.

There are now 59 countries on the OECD’s “white list” of jurisdictions that have implemented internationally agreed tax standards while 28 remain on the “grey list” having committed to the standards without having fully implemented them.

The grey list includes Malaysia, Uruguay and Chile though most of the countries are tiny Pacific and Caribbean island nations.

There are now no financial centres surveyed by the OECD which have not committed to the standards.

“Listing is never a pleasant process but it worked. The combination of the list and the threat of sanctions are the reason why we have seen so much progress over the last 10 months. Anybody who tells you different, they’re wrong,” Owens said.

The OECD will now focus on assessing the extent to which the standards are met in practice, and seek to close loopholes in implementation.

“If we see a small jurisdiction which has 12 agreements (on information disclosure) with countries with which they have no economic ties at all, to me that is not playing the game,” he said.

Owens said the greater political will in G20 countries to curb banking secrecy in offshore financial centres for the purpose of tax evasion has led to more progress made in the last 10 months than all the achievements of the previous decade.

He stressed however, that while the OECD is clamping down on jurisdictions seeking a competitive advantage through tax secrecy, it is not seeking harmonisation of tax rates.

"There is no reason why Sweden should have the same tax system as the Cayman Islands. Setting minimum tax rates is not on our agenda, neither is impinging on national sovereignty. Basically what it's about is a level playing field," he said. (Reporting by Chris Vellacott; Editing by Ron Askew) (For the Hedge Hub blog: blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub) (For Global Investing: here) ((chris.vellacott@thomsonreuters.com; +44 (0) 20 7542 3987; Reuters Messaging chris.vellacott.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

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