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In the late 1990s, the OECD increasingly took formal notice of a phenomenon occurring in select jurisdictions around the world that was causing serious harm to fiscal authorities (of members and non-members alike) and impeding the organization’s aims to advance global economic growth and development. This phenomenon or problem manifested itself in places where financial institutions from Europe to the Caribbean could offer bank accounts on which little or no taxes were payable by the account holders. At the heart of this problem were the jurisdictions’ strict secrecy laws that forbade, including under threat of criminal penalty, the disclosure of the account holders’ identities. This combination of low taxes and bank secrecy offered citizens and residents of OECD member countries a unique investment service that their home country could not provide (or compete with) — a place to grow their wealth and hide both assets and income from tax authorities. These “tropical investment conditions” had serious global financial, economic, and political repercussions that the OECD recognized and began to take aim at. As explained in this chapter, the cannon that the OECD constructed in 2002 to destroy tax havens’ bank secrecy laws was a single-purpose bilateral treaty known as the Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters. Automatic exchange of information (EOI) was not yet the primary focus of the OECD during the period 1996 to 2013, and is discussed in Chapter 8.
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- The OECD’s War on Offshore Tax Evasion 1996–2014
David S. Kerzner
David W. Chodikoff
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