Singapore qualifies for OECD tax standards

Singapore signs an agreement with France to share tax information, allowing it to qualify for the OECD's white list of jurisdictions that have substantially tightened their rules.

Singapore has entered into an agreement for sharing tax information with France. The agreement, signed on Friday, marks Singapore's twelfth such agreement and, with this, Singapore qualifies for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) white list of jurisdictions that have substantially implemented an internationally agreed standard with respect to information exchange on tax.

Singapore has signed similar agreements with Belgium, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Austria, Norway, Qatar, Mexico and Bahrain. The agreements allow for the exchange of information, including bank account information, that countries need to enforce their domestic tax laws.

The agreement was signed by Singapore's minister for finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam and the French minister for the economy, industry and employment Christine Lagarde. Lagarde is in Singapore for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit which was attended by over 800 world business leaders and 15 world leaders including the IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, US secretary of the treasury Timothy Geithner, Australia's treasurer Wayne Swan and World Bank president Robert Zoellick, among others. US president Barack Obama also attended one day of the summit as part of an Asia tour.

"I am pleased that we are enhancing our tax co-operation with France, a major economic partner for Singapore." said Shanmugaratnam in a written statement. "Like Singapore's high ratings by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for its role in the global anti-money laundering effort, these recent steps are consistent with our role as a responsible and well-regulated financial jurisdiction."

In his statement Shanmugaratnam also referred to several similar tax agreements Singapore intended to sign by the end of the year. And later on Friday Singapore and Brunei entered a tax agreement, Singapore's first after joining the OECD white list of jurisdictions. The agreement was inked between Lim Hwee Hua, a minister in the prime minister's office and second minister for finance and transport, and His Excellency Pehin Dato Abd Rahman Ibrahim, Brunei's finance minister.

Singapore is emerging as a private banking hub in the region with global financial institutions such as Citi and Julius Baer choosing to base some of their most senior private banking professionals in the city-state. Singapore is growing quickly as a financial services hub with depositors attracted by the strict banking secrecy standards.

But Singapore is seeking to balance this growth with allegations that it is becoming a tax haven for those wanting to evade taxes in their home jurisdictions. The issue is becoming increasingly sensitive and a number of European countries have agreed to share information with the US, which is clamping down hard on tax evaders.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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