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Australia Signs TIEA With Antigua And Barbuda

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

06 February 2007

Australia's Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Peter Dutton, has announced the signing of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) between Australia and Antigua and Barbuda.

The agreement provides for full exchange of information on criminal and civil tax matters between Australia and Antigua and Barbuda. It aims to improve transparency and to establish effective information exchange for tax purposes, and provides important momentum towards achieving the aims of the OECD’s Harmful Tax Practices Initiative and related Global Forum on Taxation.

“This agreement is an important step in our efforts to prevent Australian taxpayers seeking to avoid paying their fair share of tax by hiding money offshore,” Mr Dutton stated, continuing:

“These agreements also reinforce government initiatives such as Operation Wickenby.”

Mr Dutton commended Antigua and Barbuda for their commitment to the aims of the Harmful Tax Practices Initiative and their integration into the international community.

Australia has a comprehensive TIEA negotiation programme. This agreement is the second such arrangement entered into by Australia, which signed a TIEA with Bermuda in 2005.

The TIEA will enter into force when the Australian and Antiguan governments exchange diplomatic notes, advising that the constitutional processes required for entry into force have been completed.

In Australia, this process involves tabling the agreement and a National Interest Analysis in Parliament for review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

Project Wickenby is a multi-agency taskforce investigating internationally promoted tax arrangements allegedly involving tax avoidance or evasion, and in some cases large-scale money-laundering. It combines the investigative powers of the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, supported by AUSTRAC, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Government Solicitor, to deal with large scale tax avoidance and evasion.

New legislation introduced in the Australian Parliament last year proposed to help agencies involved in Project Wickenby to better share information and aid law enforcement.

This was part of wider efforts to improve the laws that protect taxpayer information, and allow disclosures to help deliver entitlements and meet law enforcement and integrity provisions, which has resulted in the government's decision to consolidate secrecy and disclosure provisions from 22 different tax acts into a standardised new framework within a single piece of legislation.

The proposed standardised secrecy framework will maintain existing disclosures, but the Australian Taxation Office will also now be able to release taxpayer information in limited circumstances, where the public interest benefits exceed the impact on taxpayer privacy.

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