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Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Tax Havens Targeted

(Nov. 6, 2008) On October 21, 2008, at a conference to combat international tax evasion and avoidance, representatives of 17 leading economies that are Member States of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) made a recommendation to the OECD that it compile a new blacklist targeting uncooperative tax jurisdictions. The current list targets only Andorra, Liechtenstein, and Monaco. (Luis Nouel, OECD Member States Take Aim at Tax Havens, TNS ONLINE, Oct. 31, 2008, available at German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück indicated that Switzerland (which declined to attend the conference), long resistant to abandoning banking secrecy, should be on an updated blacklist, because its “investment conditions encouraged some German taxpayers to commit fraud.” He added, “Switzerland is only prepared to cooperate with us if there is tax evasion … But to prove this tax evasion we need the exact information that Switzerland has, but it will not deliver it. That is the problem.” (Germany Wants Switzerland on a Tax Haven 'Blacklist,' INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, Oct. 21, 2008, available at

The planned release date of the blacklist, along with a “green list” of countries that are making progress in tackling tax fraud, is mid-2009. Other potential candidates for the blacklist are Panama, Gibraltar, and Bahrain, which reportedly “have promised to comply with OECD standards but with no discernible results.” (Nouel, supra.)

The French Budget Minister, Éric Woerth, who hosted the meeting, suggested that sanctions might be applied to “jurisdictions that refuse to follow OECD standards of transparency and exchange of information,” in the form of “restrictions on mergers and acquisitions, and increased taxation on dividend payments or higher capital gains tax” (id.). The German Finance Minister floated the possibility that Germany might amend its tax legislation along such lines to disfavor countries that do not observe the standards. (Id.; see also Summary of Conclusions, Conference on the Fight Against International Tax Evasion and Avoidance: Improving Transparency and Stepping Up Exchange of Information in Tax Matters (Paris, Oct. 21, 2008), available at

Subsequently, on October 23, 2008, the OECD Secretariat published a 12-page “note” entitled Overview of the OECD's Work on International Tax Evasion. The document discusses the size of the offshore financial industry (featuring a chart of comparative estimates made by six different sources), the accomplishments of the OECD's Harmful Tax Practices Project, the work of the OECD Global Forum on Taxation, and access to bank information for tax purposes, among other issues. It also has several annexes, including one with links to OECD annual reports on these matters. Citing Tax Co-operation: Towards a Level Playing Field – 2008 Assessment by the Global Forum on Taxation. the OECD note states:

13. The 2008 Assessment shows that significant restrictions on access to bank information for tax purposes remain in three OECD countries — Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland — and in a number of offshore financial centres, including Liechtenstein, Panama and Singapore. Further, a number of offshore financial centres that committed to implement the standards on transparency and the effective exchange of information developed by the OECD's Global Forum on Taxation have failed to follow through.

(OECD Secretariat, Overview of the OECD's Work on International Tax Evasion, OECD website, Oct. 23, 2008, available at