“Due to its universal membership and legitimacy, the UN has a key role to play in promoting international tax cooperation to the benefit of both developed and developing countries” said Alex Trepelkov, Director of Financing for Development Office, UN-DESA, as he addressed the plenary meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) yesterday at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The plenary meeting was held in order to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the strengthening of institutional arrangements to promote international cooperation in tax matters, including the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters. The Committee is a subsidiary organ of ECOSOC which provides a framework for dialogue, promotes operation among tax authorities and makes recommendations on capacity-building and the provision of assistance.
Mr. Trepelkov noted that two distinct but related issues had been identified: the question of whether the Tax Committee should be reconstituted as an intergovernmental committee, and, whether or not that change happened, the adequacy of resources available to meet its mandate.
It was noted that all countries agreed on the need to strengthen international cooperation in tax matters, but that differences existed on the role of the UN Committee in such cooperation. The representative from Barbados urged for converting the Commission into an intergovernmental body, stating that “actions which have far-reaching consequences for developing countries must be taken with their full participation.” He further stressed that most developing countries, especially the smallest, still don’t have effective access to bodies that deal with some of the matters that are most critical to their economic development.
Several other participants, including the Bahamas on behalf of CARICOM Countries, and Argentina on behalf of the G77, spoke of the need for global issues of international tax cooperation to be discussed in an inclusive, global, intergovernmental framework. The representative of Mauritius noted that while exchange of information was an important issue, it needed to be seen in the larger context of international tax cooperation and development in developing countries.
However, representatives of Hungary (speaking on behalf of the EU and other countries), US and UK as well as some other countries, recommended focusing on how the work of the current Committee could be made more effective, while supporting broader participation of developing countries in existing structures, such as OECD-related bodies. They also pointed to the risk of duplicating work being produced in other forums. Four representatives of NGOs also took the floor in support of upgrading and better resourcing the Committee to meet its development-related purposes.
Mr. Lazarous Kapambwe, President of the Council, noted that additional informal consultations were required, with the representative of Norway agreeing to facilitate those consultations.