Tax Secrecy and its Limitations: Is There a Balance?
Economic development in the past decades and the increase of cross-border business by the multinationals coupled with recent financial crisis have brought many questions about whether the taxpayers are paying their fair share. In order to assess the equitable amount of taxes due, revenue authorities often rely on information provided to them by taxpayers. In conducting their procedures, revenue authorities are in principle bound by tax secrecy. However, recently, the tax systems have introduced tax policy instruments with opposing effects, intended to provide full insight in taxpayers’ revenues worldwide and affect the taxpayers’ behaviour towards greater tax compliance. Two such instruments are particularly worth noting, public shaming lists, used primarily nationally, and international exchange of information, as a cross-border procedure. Through comparative legal approach we provide an analysis of legal instruments balancing tax confidentiality and tax transparency. As the research will show, the optimal level of tax secrecy, while preserving international standards of tax transparency, is very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. Legal tradition of secrecy, implementation of international standards and the evaluation on the adequacy of such measures should all be taken into account before jumping to any conclusions about the perfect balance. The goal of accomplishing fair and equitable tax system must not be disregarded as well.
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