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OECD Announces Meeting With Tax Havens In Barbados, Publishes Memorandum Of Understanding

Gorringe, Tax-news.com, Paris

29 November 2000


The OECD has agreed to meet the 35 countries it "named and shamed" as harmful tax havens at a summit in Barbados in early 2001. The meeting, set for January 8-9, is co-sponsored by the Commmonwealth Secretariat, many of whose members were on the list of countries and territories deemed to facilitate tax avoidance. Invitations to attend the conference are being extended to the governments of both OECD and Commonwealth countries, as well as to representatives of the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation and relevant regional organisations.

Barbados was one of the unfortunate jurisdictions to find itself of the OECD's now infamous list. However, its Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, offered to host discussions between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the OECD in the hope that some progress might be made towards getting Barbados and a number of other offshore financial centres removed from the list. He made the suggestion during his budget statement last month. OECD sources said the meeting was intended to answer charges from several of the blacklisted nations that the OECD was being "imperial" in its manner of dealing with the issue. A press release issued by the OECD said the objective of the meeting will be to "consider early confidence building measures, and develop a shared perspective on the way forward."

Addressing the OECD’s Council in Paris, the Chairman of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs, Gabriel Makhlouf said: 'The conference in Barbados will provide a valuable opportunity to continue the dialogue with jurisdictions in the region, in order to develop genuine shared perspectives on how to eliminate harmful tax practices.' He welcomed Owen Arthur's statement following a meeting at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London that "the war of words has ended" and said this was also his view.

As details of the Barbados summit were revealed, the OECD also published a Framework for a Collective Memorandum of Understanding on Eliminating Harmful Tax Practices. The OECD said it was part of its drive to improve co-operation with jurisdictions identified as tax havens and can form a basis for the OECD to continue its dialogue with those jurisdictions. It sets out the steps that the OECD is asking them to take in order demonstrate "a commitment to transparency, non-discrimination and effective co-operation." It has been sent to all 35 jurisdictions included on the OECD list, along with a letter, setting out the enhanced procedures proposed by the OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs to "meet the procedural and political concerns expressed by a number of jurisdictions."

At the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting held in Malta in September 2000, ministers mandated the Commonwealth Secretariat to facilitate high level multilateral dialogue on the issues raised by harmful tax practices. The OECD has said that the talks in Barbados are in line with this mandate.

The full text of the Framework for a Collective Memorandum of Understanding on Eliminating Harmful Tax Practices is available in Tax-News.com Resources

The full text of the letter is available at http://www.oecd.org/media/MOUletter20nov.pdf

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