So what was the big news from the G20?
The most significant move is the OECD recommending the largest overhaul of the international tax system in 75 years.
The relevant parts of the communique follow:
"Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), Tackling Tax Avoidance, Promoting Automatic Exchange of Information, and Fighting Non-cooperative Jurisdictions
18. Ensuring that all taxpayers pay their fair share of taxes is a high priority in the context of fiscal sustainability, promoting growth, and the needs of developing countries to build capacity for financing development. Tax avoidance, harmful practices and aggressive tax planning have to be tackled. The spread of the digital economy also poses challenges for international taxation. We fully endorse the ambitious and comprehensive Action Plan submitted at the request of the G-20 by the OECD aimed at addressing base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) with a mechanism to enrich the Plan as appropriate . We welcome the establishment of the OECD/G20 BEPS project and encourage all interested countries to participate. We look forward to regular reporting on the development of proposals and recommendations to tackle the 15 issues identified in the Action Plan and commit to take the necessary individual and collective action with the paradigm of sovereignty taken into consideration. We acknowledge that effective taxation of mobile income is one of the key challenges. Profits should be taxed where functions driving the profits are performed and where value is created. In order to minimize BEPS, we call on member countries to examine how our own domestic laws contribute to BEPS and to ensure that international and our own tax rules do not allow or encourage multinational enterprises to reduce overall taxes paid by artificially shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions.
19. We commend the progress recently achieved in the area of tax transparency and we fully endorse the OECD proposal for a truly global model for multilateral and bilateral automatic exchange of information. We are committed to automatic exchange of information as the new, global standard and we fully support the OECD work with G20 countries aimed at setting such a new single global standard for automatic exchange of information. We ask the OECD to prepare a progress report by our next meeting, including a timeline for completing this work in 2014. We call on all jurisdictions to commit to implement this standard. We are committed to making automatic exchange of information attainable by all countries, including low-income countries, and will seek to provide capacity building support for them. We call on all countries to join the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters without further delay. We look forward to the practical and full implementation of the new standard on a global scale. All countries must benefit from the new transparent environment and we call on the Global Forum on Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes to work with the OECD task force on tax and development, the World Bank Group and others to help developing countries identify their need for technical assistance and capacity building. We are looking forward to the Global Forum establishing a mechanism to monitor and review the implementation of the global standard on automatic exchange of information. We urge all jurisdictions to address the Global Forum’s recommendations and especially the fourteen where the legal framework fails to comply with the standard without further delay. We ask the Global Forum to draw on the work of the FATF in connection with beneficial ownership, and also ask the Global Forum to achieve the allocation of overall ratings regarding the effective implementation of information exchange upon request at its November meeting and report to us at our first meeting in 2014."
The programme will last two years; and given what is being attempted this does seem an ambitious timescale.
The major development is the commitment of the G20 to automatic information exchange, which effectively sounds the death knell for on request. It will be interesting to see how the US delivers on this commitment given the current position with Nevada, Wyoming and Delaware.
The Global Forum doesn't seem to have been consulted on this and given this Forum numbers approximately 125 countries, it seems the G20 didn't feel the need to include that wider group, which brings in to question whether this is simply a token grouping designed to corral and steer.
Peer assessments on the existing system leading to a ratings system that invariably does not score the big countries down and murmurings about harmful tax practices do not augur well for a level playing field.
Only time will tell, but let's hope the big countries remember transparency is a two way street.
To download the full communique click here