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CCBE Concerned Over OECD Proposals On Tax Intermediaries

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

25 September 2007

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), has raised 'serious concerns' that an OECD working paper which is examining the role of tax intermediaries could compromise legal professional privilege and professional secrecy.

The objective of the OECD's project is to increase understanding of the role that tax intermediaries play in tax administration, and to identify strategies for strengthening the relationship between tax intermediaries and revenue bodies. However, while the CCBE believes that the project is well intentioned, the body retains a degree of scepticism as to the workability of the proposals, and it warns that they could detract from the ability of taxpayers to engage lawyers and other tax advisers of their choice to assist them in the conduct of their tax affairs.

Commenting on the proposals, CCBE President, Colin Tyre QC observed that: “There are many desirable goals stated which are clearly in the public interest in terms of achieving a more effective relationship between Revenue authorities and taxpayers and the intermediaries who advise them. But a number of proposals will not necessarily lead to a more effective and efficient tax administration."

He added that: "The CCBE is particularly concerned that the study team’s proposal to promote an enhanced relationship based on disclosure and transparency would eventually require lawyers to disclose information subject to legal professional privilege or professional secrecy. In the CCBE’s view, it is of the utmost importance for the administration of justice that legal professional privilege/professional secrecy is protected.”

The Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) announced the tax intermediaries study in the Seoul Declaration issued in September 2006, following its meeting in Seoul, Korea. The study team is due to report its findings to the FTA by the end of 2007. The FTA will consider the report at its next meeting in January 2008, following which it is likely to issue a public statement.

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