India joins global pact to stop tax evasion

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Oct 31, 2014 07:55 IST

Amidst moves to uncover black money, India on Thursday joined over 50 countries and jurisdictions in the next step to stamp out tax evasion by signing a new agreement at the Global Forum in Berlin to automatically exchange information.

Under the agreement, unprecedented levels of information, including account balances, interest payments and beneficial ownership, will be shared with the UK from countries across the world in an international clampdown on tax evasion, official sources here said.

Chancellor George Osborne said: “Today we strike a blow on behalf of hardworking taxpayers who are cheated when rich people don’t pay their taxes. Today we send a clear message to those who still think they can escape making a fair contribution to our public services and to reducing our deficit: you can hide no more; we are coming to get you”.

The global standard of automatic information exchange to tackle tax evasion was developed by the OECD and agreed in July 2014.

The sources said that together with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the UK launched an initiative for early adoption of the new standard in April 2013.

In total 57 countries and jurisdictions - known as the Early Adopters Group - have now committed to a common implementation timetable which will see the first exchange of information in 2017 in respect of accounts open at the end of 2015 and new accounts from 2016.

A further 34 countries have committed to implement the new global standard by 2018.

The full list of countries committed to first exchange in 2017 or 2018 will be released by the Global Forum in their annual report at the end of the 29 October plenary session.

The ‘Berlin declaration on transparency and fairness in tax matters’ said: “Under the new global standard a wide range of information will be exchanged on offshore accounts, including account balances and beneficial ownership. This will make it possible to stamp out tax evasion and tackle tax fraud. This action by the dishonest few reduces public revenues, undermines confidence in the fairness of our tax systems and increases the burden on honest taxpayers”.

It added: “We call on the few countries which have not yet done so to match this commitment. The ability of tax evaders to hide is vanishing quickly. Tax evaders have two choices - come forward or be caught”.

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