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Setting the scene

In May 1996 political ministers called on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (‘OECD') to ‘develop measures to counter the distorting effects of harmful tax competition on investment and financing decisions and the consequence for national tax bases'. In response, the OECD released a report in 1998 entitled ‘Harmful Tax Competition' which highlighted the practices of tax havens and preferential tax regimes in OECD member countries, noting them as particularly harmful. Since then the OECD has tried to eliminate these practices by urging countries to base their tax agreements on the OECD model which provides for the exchange of information upon request, without carve-outs for bank secrecy laws.

The current financial crisis lent impetus to the G20 meeting in April, at which it was expected the OECD would publish a blacklist of non-complying jurisdictions for approval by the world leaders. Many jurisdictions committed to relax their bank secrecy laws prior to the G20 meeting. The list eventually published split jurisdictions into three categories: those that had substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard (the ‘whitelist'), those that had committed to the internationally agreed tax standard but not yet substantially implemented (the ‘greylist'), and those that have not committed to the internationally agreed tax standard (the ‘blacklist'). For a copy of the list, please see the ‘OECD/G20 action' page.

Developments have continued in the wake of the list's publication. The following pages contain summaries, primary sources and commentary which chart the events surrounding the OECD list and help to set into context the countermeasures being considered by governments.

For ongoing developments in this area, please refer to our ‘Latest developments archive'.

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