Assessing the Playing Field

International Cooperation in Tax Information Exchange

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Executive Summary

In 1996 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) embarked on its Harmful Tax Competition Initiative. As the name implies, the initial objective of this exercise was to identify types of tax competition which OECD members would agree to label as ‘harmful’ on the basis that types of tax competition deemed harmful would not be permitted. The tax scope of the exercise was initially intended to be broad, while the regulatory scope was to be confined to the membership of the OECD. By 1997 the tax scope of the exercise had been significantly reduced so as to include only competition for mobile financial and other services, while the list of countries which it was intended would comply with the rules had expanded to include a group of some 47 small and developing countries perceived as competing with OECD countries in the financial services sector, which were invited to submit information to assist the OECD in determining whether they met its tax haven criteria. Based on this information, the OECD chose to label 41 of these countries as ‘tax havens’.


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