The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is the world’s leading multilateral body within which work in the area of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes is carried out. Over the last five years in particular, global tax transparency has become an almost universally supported pillar of the international financial system, meaning that it is increasingly difficult for taxpayers and financial institutions to benefit from secretive structures and related planning.
During 2015, the Global Forum laid the groundwork for a new level of transparency and information sharing. Three themes dominated our work during this year.
First, automatic exchange of information is becoming the norm, with 96 jurisdictions committed to its implementation over the next few years. Information on financial accounts held by non-residents will start flowing in 2017 on an unprecedented scale.
Another important step taken this year was the completion of the revised framework for reviewing the standard for exchange of information on request. The content of the Terms of Reference for reviewing jurisdictions has been strengthened, and information on the beneficial owners of companies, trusts and foundations will now be required to be available.
Third, it is recognised that developing countries (which constitute more than half of the Global Forum’s membership) must be integrated fully into this work if exchange of tax information is to have worldwide reach.
This 2015 annual report of the Global Forum presents a clear picture of where we stand in terms transparency in tax matters as the Global Forum reaches the end of its second mandate. It reflects the huge progress that has been made over the course of the current mandate. It is clear that there has been a global evolution in the expectations and implementation of exchange of information. The international legal basis for exchange has also developed with much more emphasis now on multilateral instruments, and progress has been made in 2015 with more jurisdictions joining the multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.