Peer reviews of Exchange of Information on Request (EOIR) have been the Global Forum’s main activity since 2009. These are carried out by its 30 member Peer Review Group and adopted by the plenary. The first round of reviews in which all member jurisdictions and jurisdictions relevant to the work of the Global Forum were reviewed against the 2010 Terms of Reference has been completed.
Following calls in April 2016 by the G20 Finance leaders to establish objective criteria and a list of jurisdictions which have not made satisfactory progress in implementing the international tax transparency standards, a special Fast-Track review procedure was approved at the 2016 Georgia plenary meeting. This procedure was implemented during April-June 2017. Several jurisdictions were able to demonstrate progress in implementing the EOIR standard through this procedure which resulted in a provisional upgrade to their ratings. More information on the Fast Track procedure and its outcomes can be found here: Fast-Track procedure.
In a new round of reviews, launched in 2016, assessments were made against the 2016 Terms of Reference which contain principles which have been revised to ensure that these reflect the latest developments in international tax transparency.
The peer review process evaluates jurisdictions’ compliance with the international standard of transparency and exchange of information on request. In accordance with the peer review Methodology, reviews take place in two phases: Phase 1 examines the legal and regulatory framework; Phase 2 looks into the implementation of this framework in practice. In the first round, certain jurisdictions underwent combined reviews, which evaluated together the Phase 1 and Phase 2 aspects. In the new round, all reviews will be carried out in a combined manner. All members of the Global Forum, as well as jurisdictions identified by the Global Forum as relevant to its work, are reviewed in the order established by the Schedule of Reviews. After completion of both Phases of the review process, each jurisdiction receives an overall rating.
The international standard against which jurisdictions are assessed provides for exchange on request of foreseeably relevant information for carrying out the provisions of a tax convention or for the administration or enforcement of the domestic tax laws of a requesting party.
The Global Forum Terms of Reference break down the standard in ten essential elements, divided into three main parts: A – availability of information, B – access to information, C – exchange of information. For the exchange of information to be effective, each jurisdiction should have appropriate international EOI instruments in place with all relevant partners, but it must also make sure that the information sought is available and accessible to its competent authority. Information which is not available or cannot be accessed cannot be exchanged. However, even if a jurisdiction never exchanges information, implementing the Global Forum’s standards on availability of and access to information is key to ensuring that it can protect its own domestic tax base.
The reviews are driven by peers. During the reviews, all members of the Global Forum are invited to provide inputs regarding their EOI experience with the assessed jurisdiction or to flag any specific issues they would like to see examined. The assessment teams – which usually consist of two expert assessors from Global Forum member jurisdictions along with an administrator from the Secretariat – take into consideration the inputs received.
The second round of peer reviews were launched in July 2016 under strengthened Terms of Reference. These include a strengthened standard on the availability of beneficial ownership information - as set out by the FATF standard - as well as its access by the tax authorities. Previously, the Global Forum standard only required the availability of legal ownership and identity information of legal entities and arrangements. This new requirement will strengthen the fight against anonymous shell companies and the use of legal arrangements to conceal ownership identity.
The output of the peer review is a report. The draft peer review reports are discussed and approved by the Peer Review Group, and are finally adopted by all Global Forum members. The report is published following the adoption by the Global Forum Where areas of weakness are identified during reviews, the reports include recommendations setting out clearly what improvements jurisdictions need to make. Jurisdictions are required to provide follow up reports on an annual basis on the actions they have taken to address the recommendations.
Many jurisdictions make substantial changes to their legal and regulatory frameworks and practices before their reviews. Some others who initially do not receive satisfactory ratings are able to address recommendations and improve their ratings later, through a supplementary review procedure which has been established so that these changes can be evaluated and given public recognition.