2nd July 2014
Australia is being accused of dragging its feet over a planned shake up of international tax laws after it emerged Tony Abbott’s government has not yet signed an early information sharing agreement as part of its G20 leadership.
The automatic exchange program has been endorsed by finance ministers from the world’s leading economies. It requires countries to swap information on bank accounts but Australia is yet to sign up amid fears over the potential cost to business of compliance.
Maggie Murphy, a senior program coordinator at Transparency International, says it’s “disappointing” that Australia is not one of the more than 40 early adopters, which includes the likes of the UK and Germany, as well as tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Jersey.
''If you're championing a process, if you're the leader of this group of nations, and you're at the same time saying we need an international body to take things forward, then you need to be part of that drive forward,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ms Murphy went on to say it would be “upsetting” if Australia used compliance as screen for delaying implementation.
But Mr Abbott’s government, which hosts key talks on the project in Brisbane in November, says the nation is at the forefront of the campaign and refuted opposition claims it has gone soft on tax cooperation. "We are also taking a leading role in global efforts to tackle tax evasion through our presidency of the G20," a government note seen by AAP said.
A joint statement by the 44 early signatories to the program reads: "Tax evasion is a global problem and requires a global solution. We therefore welcome the new standard in automatic exchange of information between tax authorities developed by the OECD (the Common Reporting Standard). This will provide a step change in our ability to clamp down on tax evasion, which reduces public revenues and increases the burden on those who pay their taxes."